Employment and Labour offers lifeline to injured employees and dependents

Compensation Fund Vocational Rehabilitation and Re- integration Programme offers lifeline to injured employees and dependents

In order to address the tendency on part of some employers to dismiss employees on the basis of occupational injuries and or diseases, the recently introduced Vocational Rehabilitation, Re- integration and Return-to-Work programme by the Compensation Fund seeks to present the concept of a multi–disciplinary based process of rehabilitation and reintegration of occupationally injured or employees who contracted occupational diseases.

This was revealed yesterday, (07 August 2023), during the Compensation Fund advocacy session held at Tzaneen Country Lodge in Limpopo Province. The sessions are aimed to educate stakeholders on the recently signed into law, Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 10 of 2022.

The rationale on the amendment of the Act is to provide an improved governance of the board; allow Commissioner to perform some of the functions that were previously performed by the Director-General, to introduce the new programme that has been formalised in legislation called rehabilitation, re-integration and return to work of occupationally injured and diseased employees; the regulation of third parties who want to transact with the fund; the regulation of compliance and enforcement of employers; the administrative penalties and the regulation on the use of health care services among others.

According to Deputy Director Vocational Rehabilitation Ntsodi Mafa, it has been a double jeopardy to clients who have acquired injuries or diseases at work who end up losing their jobs. Thus, in the amendments of the COID Act 10 of 2022, a new chapter on orthotics and vocational rehabilitation was incorporated to complete the value chain of the Compensation Fund.

“What we are advocating is for employers to exhaust all rehabilitation and reintegration processes before laying off an employee. With our regulations, we are also aiming at pleading with the employer to recommend a particular training intervention that is linked to a particular vacant post within the organisation so that when we upskill or reskill an occupationally injured worker, we get an assurance that a person we are training will occupy a particular position upon successful completion of vocational rehabilitation programme. We do not want to train people to sit at home, we want people to be absorbed back in the labour market,” said Mr. Mafa.

He explained that previously the Fund only compensated employees on the injury on duty, paying medical benefits but never tapped into the issue of ensuring that injured workers are returned back to work successfully.

“The programme thus offers full bursaries and short skills programmes to the injured workers if they want to reskill or upskill themselves to return back to work. We are also offering them opportunities to embark on incubation programmes so that they can start their own businesses and become self-sufficient. Already a significant number of occupationally injured workers have been trained to gain new skills and become entrepreneurs. Some of the trainees are now running businesses in clothing brands, agricultural businesses, some are doing diamond evaluation refineries and they are fully qualified. We have taken them through skills programmes with accredited service providers and they are happy about that,” Mafa said.

“In addition, we have a social responsibility to ensure that we look after the dependents of the injured workers and those that have lost their parents due to fatal occupational injuries or diseases by offering them bursaries to further their studies.

The bursary programme covers tuition fees, accommodation and also give them allowance until they complete their qualifications,” added Mafa.

The next advocacy session will take place at Bolivia Lodge in Polokwane today, 8 August 2023.

Source: Government of South Africa