Compensation bill for occupational injuries could be disastrous, parliament hears

21 April 2021 - 21:49 By nonkululeko njilo
The bill seeks to include domestic workers among those qualifying to claim for injuries sustained at work. Stock photo.
The bill seeks to include domestic workers among those qualifying to claim for injuries sustained at work. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/ Pumidol Leelerdsakulvong

The possible amendment of a bill seeking to include domestic workers among those qualifying to claim for injuries sustained at work has been given the thumbs up.   

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) hailed the bill, which if amended will benefit more than 864,000 domestic workers across SA. And the South African Medical Association (SAMA) also said it was encouraging. 

But they  also raised concerns over some elements of the Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment (COIDA) Bill at the parliamentary portfolio committee for employment and labour on Wednesday.

SAMA rallied behind the objective of providing quality medical care to people injured on duty. But the association vehemently objected to the amendment of section 73 (clause 43 of the amendment bill) in the form proposed, arguing it will be catastrophic to workers.    

If amended, the bill will prevent medical service providers from submitting their invoices to financial institutions or third-party administrators for early payment or access to overdrafts. It will also prevent them being pre-funded, meaning they would have to wait about two years for their medical accounts to be settled by the Compensation Fund. 

“We're opposed to this amendment on the grounds that it will place an immense administrative, financial and legal pressure on the health-care sector and disadvantages injured workers and their right to quality medical care.

“If adopted, it will have a disastrous impact on medical practitioners and injured workers. The system in its current form is completely dysfunctional and even if this amendment does pass, the whole system must be overhauled. It is not sustainable or friendly,” said Dr Angelique Coetzee. 

She agued the clause be reconsidered and abandoned.  

SAMA also took issue with clause 40.

“There is no reasonable rationale for amending the act. Neither the minister nor the department of employment and labour, much less the Compensation Fund, have provided any reasonable rationale or justification, in any presentation or memorandum.”

Commenting on the Compensation Fund, the association said it was dysfunctional, poorly governed and mismanaged. “Removing the cession of invoices would do away with the only part of the fund's value chain that works,” said Coetzee. 

Saica also expressed concern at clause 43 which states that any agreement existing at the commencement of the act would be void.

“The existing pre-funding book would in effect be wiped off the balance sheet of companies with the effect that financial institutions that advanced funds to these companies will cancel all facilities and will foreclose on their security. The proposed amendment seemingly has retrospective effect and the retrospectivity prejudices pre-funders that legally conducted [business] before the proposed amendment,” said Juanita Steenekamp.

The institute recommended that the bill takes into account the impact on vulnerable employees and medical service providers. 

“It seems unreasonable to prohibit business practices with no apparent business rationale and we therefore request deletion of this proposal,” Steenekamp added. 

Hearings on the bill continue.