Of a total of 267 municipalities registered with the Compensation Fund (CF), only 147 submitted their declarations to the Fund, according to the Ministry of Employment and Labour.
The ministry said this conduct exposes millions of workers facing the risks of occupational hazards to insufficient coverage.
The Compensation Fund’s chief director of workers’ compensation and occupational disease (COID) services, Julian Soupen, said the 55% compliance rate means a high number of workers were receiving the short end of the stick due to high levels of non-compliance in the workplace.
“It is worrying, it means that 45% of employers in municipalities did not submit declarations and it means that their employees were not covered for accidents at work and occupational diseases suffered at work.
“The implication is that these municipalities are subject to fines and penalties for non-compliance. This is in addition to the fees they are required to pay to the Fund,” Soupen said.
Soupen was speaking at the joint seminar of the Department of Employment and Labour’s Compensation Fund, Limpopo Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs in conjunction with the South African Association of local governments (SALGA).
The seminar is aimed at local government guardians with the aim of ensuring the protection and health of workers while ensuring that local government organizations comply with the Workmen’s Compensation Act and occupational diseases.
The two-day seminar at Protea Hotel (The Ranch) in Polokwane is held under the theme: “Compensation fund working with municipalities on COIDA to protect vulnerable workers”.
Soupen said the expectation of employers in terms of the law is that it must be obeyed.
He added that the CF expects employers to comply by registering, ensuring fees are fully paid and registration is done properly.
He warned that if these legislative requirements were not met, employee coverage would not be adequate.
Regarding Limpopo Province, Soupen said that 27 municipalities are registered with the FC and 21 of them submit their declarations to the Fund.
He said the province’s 78 per cent compliance rate was commendable and one of the highest in the country at this level of government.
“I would like to commend the leaders of Limpopo province who are complying in this regard,” he said.
According to Soupen, the CF has always been willing to engage with its stakeholders to ensure compliance.
The Compensation Fund exists to administer the COID Act. Its main objective is to compensate invalidity, sickness and death resulting from accidents at work and occupational diseases.
Under the COID Act, employers must register with the Compensation Fund and pay an annual fee based on their workers’ earnings and the risks associated with the type of work performed.
Soupen said that in terms of legislation, there were only nine municipalities in South Africa that were classified as exempt. He said municipalities that are classified as exempt employers do not have to pay fees to the CF, however they are responsible for maintaining reserves to meet costs related to work injuries and occupational diseases.
“The reserves they are expected to hold are assessed and approved by the CF, and once the Fund is satisfied that the level of reserves held by these municipalities is sufficient to cover the operational costs of industrial accidents and occupational diseases, they are issued a certificate of exemption,” he pointed out.
Soupen reminded employers that “the law provides adequate financial assistance to victims of injury and illness.”
He said access to immediate medical care was essential and paramount for an employee who suffered an injury or illness.
“The longer it goes on, the more the health of the employee is at risk and it would make the treatment of the employee a bit difficult. We have found that in some cases there is a long delay between the time of the incident and when employees receive medical attention.
“I want to implore employers to ensure that when such incidents occur, priority is given to their employees receiving medical attention,” Soupen said.
During the 2019-2022 period, the CF had registered 1155 claims, and 38% of them were finalized.
Soupen said 50% of those claims are still pending — awaiting information from employers to facilitate outstanding claims.
The ministry called on municipalities to reach out to the CF to help them ensure compliance.
Soupen added that a healthy workforce in the region means the region is economically viable, self-sufficient and has a healthy workforce.
The seminar enters its second and final day today and is aimed at: municipal managers, financial directors, directors of corporate services and human resources managers/officers.
(With contributions from the South African government press release)