South Africans across the country are preparing for the national lockdown, which is set to start on Friday, 27 March 2020. To help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, most citizens will be expected to stay in the comfort of their homes for at least 21 days. However, essential workers will be required to make significant sacrifices, as many are working on the frontline to fight COVID-19.
During these challenging times, it’s vital that the entire country supports those delivering essential goods or services and the law protects their rights should they be exposed to COVID-19 and fall ill. In light of this, new regulations have been published that recognise the indispensable role these workers play to make South Africa safe for all.
So, if you are wondering how the law protects your rights if you are working during the lockdown, here’s a closer look:
Classifications: a breakdown of the risk categories of essential workers
The Compensation Commissioner issued a notice in terms of Section 6A of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 130 of 1993. The regulations provide compensation and protection for workers who get novel coronavirus disease while on duty and identifies different levels of risk:
Very high risk:
These workers get up close and personal with patients who are suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. This would include healthcare workers, such as doctors, nurses, dentists; and paramedics performing procedures, such as intubation, bronchoscopes or dental procedures. Other workers who are at very high risk include laboratory personnel who work with medical samples of these patients and morgue workers who perform autopsies on patients who have sadly passed away.
Healthcare delivery and support staff who have a high risk of being exposed to suspected or known COVID-19 patients are in this category. Of course, doctors and nurses who enter patients’ rooms also fall under this classification. Additionally, medical transport workers, such as ambulance personnel who move these patients and mortuary workers who prepare the bodies of those who pass away for funeral or cremation are included in this category.
Medium-risk workers are those who come into frequent or close contact (within 2 metres) with the general public and those who may have been infected by COVID-19 but aren’t suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. This would include workers in supermarkets or in consultation rooms.
Low-risk workers don’t have contact with the general public and aren’t exposed to anyone suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19.
Reducing risk in general
It is important to note that even if a worker is not considered to be at risk, it’s still possible to contract COVID-19 in everyday life. All South Africans should take the necessary precautions (such as regular washing of hands) and abide by lockdown rules when not at work.
Compensation for contracting COVID-19 at Work.
Flattening the COVID-19 curve requires active measures to prevent infection and sufficient medical care if infected. Essential workers run the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus while on duty, and it may be necessary for them to self-quarantine. The regulations require employers to pay essential workers their full remuneration if they self-quarantine based on professional medical advice. The regulations also guarantee medical care for workers that contract COVID-19 while at work. Although symptoms are usually mild and hospitalisation isn’t necessary in most cases, the Compensation Fund will provide medical aid to those who contract COVID-19 in the workplace. This aid covers a period of up to 30 days from the date the infection is diagnosed.
While severe cases are rare, they are still possible, and the virus can be hazardous to those who already have chronic diseases. Knowledge of the long-term consequences of contracting coronavirus is still mostly unknown. Essential workers will be able to claim for temporary total disablement, or permanent disablement as a result of complications due to being infected. Keep in mind, the assessment to determine whether there is permanent damage can only happen 3 months after infection. This gives the infected patient sufficient time to recover from the virus’s effects.
The fund will compensate workers for temporary total disablement for as long as the impairment continues, but only up to a maximum of 30 days. Where a worker suffers permanent disablement, the Compensation Fund will consider the merits of the case.
While highly unlikely, there is still a possibility that workers could pay the ultimate price for making the sacrifice to work during the pandemic. Should a worker lose their life as a result of contracting COVID-19, the Compensation Fund will cover all reasonable burial expenses.
How to Claim from the Compensation Fund
Different avenues have been set up to allow workers to claim if they are absent from work on the advice of a medical professional or for compensation for lasting consequences of infection. Affected workers can claim by emailing a list of documents, or by following an online process.
The documents required include:
- Employers Report of Occupational Disease (W.CL.1)
- Notice of Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation (W.CL.14)
- Exposure and Medical Questionnaire
- First Medical Report in Respect of Occupational Disease (W.CL.22) indicating U07.1 as the ICD Code
- Exposure History (W.CL. 110) and any other appropriate employment history
- Medical report on the employee’s symptoms
- Progress Medical Report (W.CL.26) for each consultation.
- Final Medical Report in Respect of Occupational Disease (W.CL.26) when the employees’ condition has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
- An affidavit if an employer cannot be traced or will not timeously supply a W.CL.1 (where applicable)
Once collected, these documents can be emailed to any of the following addresses:
- Compensation Fund: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rand Mutual Assurance: email@example.com
- Federated Employers Mutual: FEM-Registry@fema.co.za
Claims for compensation can also be made online at any of the following websites:
- Compensation Fund: CompEasy (www.labour.co.za)
- Rand Mutual Assurance: CompCare (www.randmutual.co.za)
- Federated Employers Mutual: IMS (https://roe.fem.co.za)
Do note: it is important to indicate the ICD 10-code as U07.1
Added legal advice and guidance: how do I get in touch with LAW FOR ALL?
We’re keeping the law working for you during the national lockdown. Thanks to technology, our legal experts still provide legal help during the COVID-19 outbreak. To get in touch with LAW FOR ALL:
- Send an Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- SMS your ‘name’ to 30838.
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