In industries that are exempt from the lockdown, can employees refuse to report to work fearing possible contraction of COVID-19?

No, an employee cannot refuse to report to work where the employer is permitted to carry on operations, unless the minimum standards of health, safety, and hygiene to contain the pandemic are not being followed by the employer. In the event that an employee who is healthy refuses to adhere to a legally valid employment requirement, such as coming to work when the employer is permitted to function because he/she feels unsafe, the employer can initiate disciplinary action against the employee as per the terms of the employer’s policies. That said, in light of the current circumstances, in the event that:
(i) the disciplinary action results in termination of employment, it is possible that employees may challenge the termination in labour courts as wrongful termination, and given that the termination was during the COVID – 19 outbreak, it is possible that courts may take an approach that is sympathetic to employees; or
(ii) the employee gets infected due to coming to work, it may be possible for the employee to file a tortious claim against the employer for damages and also initiate criminal action against the employer.

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