Michael Bagraim writes that the Occupational Injury and Diseases Act is undergoing complex amendments that are long overdue, and the proposed amendments are all available for scrutiny. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Michael Bagraim writes that the Occupational Injury and Diseases Act is undergoing complex amendments that are long overdue, and the proposed amendments are all available for scrutiny. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Changes coming to protect workers injured on duty

By Michael Bagraim Time of article published May 6, 2021

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The legislative process is often complex, tedious and lengthy. Parliament and its various structures are continuously looking at legislation and taking input from the public with regard to various amendments.

The Department of Employment and Labour has various pieces of legislation which are indirectly involved in the world of employment.

One of the acts of Parliament is the Occupational Injury and Diseases Act. The legislation is undergoing complex amendments that are long overdue.

The proposed amendments are all available for scrutiny. Should anyone be interested in learning about them, they can contact me at [email protected]

I intend to have a look at one controversial amendment and try to unpack it, so it can be easily understood and debated by the public.

All employees should be registered for UIF and Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida).

If the employee is injured at work or contracts an illness at work or via work, the employee qualifies for a claim against the fund.

The fund has been dysfunctional for almost 20 years. Despite the department spending more than R250 million on IT systems, the experience has always been that the administration is useless and the claims are difficult to register, process and have payment effected.

Coida has provided some relief to injured workers who are often the most vulnerable members of our workforce. Furthermore, it has also offered enormous relief to employers who are indemnified against claims for injuries occurring at work.

It is often said that Coida, as an insurance policy for employers, is one of the most beneficial insurance schemes for employers. The same can’t be said for employees who often don’t get the needed results.

Despite the dysfunctional fund, there are some private hospitals, doctors and practitioners who are willing to see Coida patients and treat them.

The few hospitals, doctors and practitioners are willing to see the patients because they have been able to approach intermediaries (third parties) who are willing to purchase the medical accounts from the practitioner for a discounted fee.

In other words, if a Coida patient has to see a doctor and the invoice comes to R500, the patient will provide a certificate to the doctor that the claim is Coida related.

The doctor will then “sell” the invoice to the intermediary for an amount less than the R500.

The intermediary will then, normally within 30 days, pay the doctor the lesser amount and then try to claim the full amount from the fund. This function gives the doctor the ability to provide the service and care to the patient without costing the patient a cent.

The department has chosen to bring an amendment to Parliament, suggesting that the government outlaws the practice of third parties.

Submissions have been made to the portfolio committee on employment and labour by numerous institutions, almost all of whom have attacked the proposed amendment.

* Michael Bagraim is a labour lawyer. He can be contacted at [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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