A South African firm has been criticised by staff for its monumentally hard line on returning to the office.

This week South Africa posted its highest daily number of coronavirus infections yet, and while it is gradually easing its lockdown, people have been asked to stay at home and work remotely for the sake of the wider community. 

But one law firm, Werksmans, has allegedly insisted that all of its staff get back to work.

"The results have been chaotic and Covid-19 has spread like wildfire through the firm", claimed an insider. 

Despite Werksmans being an apparent hotbed of COVID-19, the senior partner, David Hertz, has insisted that all staff remain at the office and working, said sources. 

Those who test positive for the virus will be granted permission to return home, which is reassuring.


"54°C, you're fine to work."

But a source said that in a "train smash" of an online meeting with all staff last week, Hertz told employees that if anyone didn't like the prospect of coming into the office, they would have to use up their annual leave to stay at home. And when their annual leave ran out, they could take unpaid leave. He added that if they didn't like it, "they can leave" as the firm was "carrying" too many people anyway, according to sources.

Insiders said that Hertz also said there would be no "bitching or whining" in the corridors about his decision. "Staff are terrified", said a source. “The situation is beyond revolting at the moment and no-one is prepared to put him in his place”, said another insider.

Werksmans did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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Habeas Tortoise 26 June 20 09:59

My advice to people at this firm would be to try and find work elsewhere. There is no need for bosses like this in the 21st Century. The only way dinosaurs like this change or get voted out is if you hurt the bottom line.

Werksavirus 26 June 20 13:35

Their entire property law department has had to shut down due to the COVID spread amongst them.  Sadly for their employees they are regarded as one of the nicer big firms to work at.

Anonymous 26 June 20 14:13

This is not true. Yes, they have opened but a firm cannot generate money if people aren't working. I work there and have  been allowed to work from hom during this whole time (together with many other people). Werksmans has been fantastic during this whole time especially to support staff. While other firms have retreched and cut salaries Weksmans has not done any of this!!

Anonymous 26 June 20 15:09

Wonder what the clients think.

Another firm should put out a public call guaranteeing an interview to any Werksmans lawyer with a demonstrably profitable practice and good billables. 

This guy (why is it always a guy) probably thinks he can get away with this behaviour because of the economic climate, but that cuts both ways.

If someone else is bold enough to take on the profitable talent appalled at being ordered to risk killing their vulnerable or elderly relatives and promises to treat them with a modicum of respect he will end up destroying his firm and would 100% deserve that.

Anonymous 26 June 20 19:41

Mr. Werksman would have ordered everyone to work from home, as he cared about his staff, each and everyone. He would have assisted in any way possible.
Shame on you Mr. Hertz!

Mary Jane 26 June 20 19:45

Mr. Werksman would never have allowed this to happen! Why? Because he cared about each and every one of his staff. A mensch indeed!

Shame on you David Hertz. 

The truth will prevail 26 June 20 20:06

Absolute crap. Being a director/partner has a different set of rules. Don’t twist the truth! Maybe you have been allowed to work from home, ordinary staff members have NOT been granted that privilege!

Support 26 June 20 21:01

Support staff haven’t been given the privilege to work from home. There are different rules that apply for support staff versus partners/directors/attorneys. Support staff are not valued at Werksmans. 

Concerned Reader 27 June 20 05:30

Disgusting!!! wonder how this SP would react if one of HIS family members contracts the virus or succumbs to it.  Staff should take a stand TOGETHER!!!!! God help you Mr Senior Partner ....


Cityslugger 27 June 20 08:23

Almost all businesses in SA are open now including restaurants. The virus will be here until the end of the year if not longer. The report says staff are allowed to take leave and the firm will even keep their jobs on ice if they are too scared to go to work. If they feel ill they have been told to stay home. No one has lost their job or had their pay reduced in a country that has lost 7 million jobs in a population of 58 million. All businesses all over the world are managing this by shutting parts down when there are infections. Coronavirus is not nearly the threat it was initially said to be especially in developing countries like South Africa. I congratulate them on realising the lives AND livelihoods have to be balanced. 

Sam124 29 June 20 09:32

It has been said where a company is able to have staff work remotely the company should continue to adopt such an approach. They just asked everyone to return to the office, no phased approach whatsoever. For those who are saying it's not true, why not ask Mr Hertz to share the zoom call audio of that meeting or the email asking for the return of staff!! And this stance still stands, yet their positive covid 19 cases increase everyday ...

Lala 30 June 20 09:34

It’s not only support staff who are treated in this manner. Junior Lawyers are also treated abysmally. My boss expects me to be available via email and WhatsApp 24/7. He frequently works from the comfort of his home or takes holidays  yet he expects me to be in the office so that I can all email him excerpts of legislation (which he could easily look up online himself if he bothered to learn) or send documents from the office because he is not there. Directors are unassailable they do as they wish whilst Juniors are worked to breaking point and treated appallingly. I have been diagnosed with burnout, depression, adrenal fatigue and anxiety but I won’t dare work from home or take sick leave I am entitled to for fear if being passed over for a promotion yet again because I am not pretty or connected enough. I have spent 6 years at the firm and I am still treated like an underling at my boss’s beck and call. Werksmans proves white male privileged is alive and well in South Africa. 

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