In early July, the government released a report which found that of the claims lodged with the Compensation Fund, over 80% come from women.
The Department of Labour noted that it was dealing with an increase in the number of claims from workers who are getting sick on the job due to the coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across South Africa.
“Our figures show that most affected employees are nurses who are paying the ultimate price so that we get a second chance and survive the pandemic,” said Minister Thulas Nxesi.
How can you claim from the government’s Compensation Fund if you contract Covid-19 at work?
According to Nomihlali Ntsunguzi: OD, Transformation/Change, Human Capital Expert and Coach*, the Compensation Act states:
“If an employee gets injured, contracts a disease or dies while working, then they or their dependents can claim from the Compensation Fund,” she says. “The fund pays compensation to permanent and casual workers, trainees and apprentices who are injured or contract a disease in the course of their work and lose income as a result.”
Ntszungzi notes that Covid-19 cases should be treated as any other work-related health incident reported to the fund. “This is PROVIDED there is enough proof that the virus was contracted at work,” she emphasises.
“An employee that has contracted the COVID-19 virus at work has a right to claim from the compensation fund. However, there has to be proof that the virus was contracted from work. For example, they may share an office with an employee who was infected.”
What happens if you’ve tested positive for Covid-19?
“Positive test results, and proof that it was contracted at work must then be reported to the employer. This can be done through the HR/Safety & Health/Medical Centre or any other responsible function depending on the structure of the organisation,” says Ntszungzi.
“The employer will complete the necessary forms and report the case to the fund – I believe this can now be done online.”
Claim number can be used for medical claims
“Once the claim has been reported, the fund will issue a claim number. Then the employee can produce this number when visiting doctors and specialists. The fund will be covering the medical costs.”
“In a case of temporary disability, the HR department will have to complete a certain form. This will allow them to claim compensation of part of the employee’s salary, which is 75%. The fund will pay this to the employer.”
“In a case of permanent disability or death, the fund will pay a lump sum. This is based on the final report signed by the treating doctor or specialist.”
Revised guidelines issued by Department of Employment and Labour in July
According to Kate Collier, a Partner, Shane Johnson, a Professional Support Lawyer, Mbali Nkosi, an Associate and Tsholofelo Mofokeng, a Candidate Attorney at Webber Wentzel, the Department of Employment and Labour issued revised guidelines on how to submit claims to the Compensation Fund for Covid-19 contracted in the workplace
The Directive provides details on the requirements and process for submitting compensation claims to the Compensation Fund in the event that an employee contracts Covid-19 in the workplace.
To prove workplace-acquired Covid-19, the Compensation Fund will take the following factors into account:
- assessment of the inherent risk posed by various categories of work and occupations; or
- exposure to a known cause of Covid-19 at the workplace; or
- an approved official trip or travel history to countries and/or areas of high risk for Covid-19 for work purposes;
- a reliable Covid-19 diagnosis as per the World Health Organisation’s guidelines; and
- a chronological sequence between exposure at the workplace and the development of symptoms.
According to the Directive, Covid-19 can only be reliably diagnosed by the following:
The Compensation Fund, through its medical officers, will determine whether the diagnosis was made according to acceptable medical standards.
The Directive classifies occupations at risk into 4 different categories:
The above classification serves as a guide only. All employees, regardless of occupation, are entitled to make a claim for compensation in the event of workplace-acquired Covid-19.
Who can apply?
The Compensation Fund will only provide compensation for confirmed workplace-acquired cases where the fund has accepted liability. It will not provide compensation for unconfirmed cases which are still being investigated. For self-isolation or self-quarantine periods, the employer must apply under the UIF’s TERS scheme or follow the leave procedures under the DEL’s Covid-19 Directive on Health and Safety in the Workplace.
Maximum compensation payable
Temporary total disablement due to infection with Covid-19 will be paid from date of diagnosis up to a maximum of 30 days. Where there are medical complications, the Compensation Commissioner has the right to review each case on merit. If there has been any permanent disablement, this will be assessed 3 months after the date of diagnosis and when maximum medical improvement has been reached.
If a qualifying employee dies as a result of Covid-19 complications, the fund will cover reasonable burial expenses and, where applicable, the widow or widower’s and dependant’s pensions will be payable.
To lodge a claim with the Compensation Fund, the following documents will be required:
- Employer’s Report of an Occupational Disease (W.CL.1)
- Notice of an Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation (W.CL.14)
- Exposure and Medical Questionnaire
- First Medical Report in respect of an Occupational Disease (W.CL.22) indicating U07.1 as the ICD-10 code for Covid-19
- Exposure history and/or other appropriate employment history which may include information helpful to the Compensation Commissioner
- A medical report on the affected employee’s symptoms that details the history, establishes a diagnosis of Covid-19 and includes laboratory results and chest radiographs, where appropriate
- A Progress Medical Report (for each consultation) (W.CL.26)
- Final Medical Report in respect of an Occupational Disease (W.CL.26) when the employee’s condition has reached Maximum Medical Improvement
- An affidavit by the employee if an employer cannot be traced or will not supply a W.CL.1 where applicable
*More about Nomihlali Ntsunguzi – OD, Transformation/Change, Human Capital Expert and Coach
MCom: Business Management – University of Johannesburg; Hons Industrial Psychology – UNISA; PDEM – Rhodes University; Bsoc Sci (Industrial Psychology & Industrial Sociology) – Rhodes University; HR Strategic Leadership – Stellenbosch Business School; Life Coach – Coaching Development; ORSC – CRR Global. CEO of Nissi Human Capital Solutions