REHABILITATION AND RETURN-TO-WORK
Recently, the Minister of Employment and Labour, after consultation with the Compensation Board, published Draft Regulations on Rehabilitation and Return-to-Work (‘the Regulations’), in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) for public comment.
Despite employers already suffering the financial and administrative burdens of COIDA-related compliance, the Minister and the Compensation Board felt it necessary to increase the compliance requirements to new levels.
Although the intentions behind these Regulations are noble, the implementation thereof is not only impractical, but complex and financially straining upon employers.
These Regulations mandate a new, additional policy to be drafted by employers, which deals specifically with the rehabilitation and reintegration of temporary or permanently impaired employees in the workplace, who suffered from an occupational disease or injury. It further places upon employers the financial obligation to provide the impaired employee with any necessary or required vocational rehabilitation in order for the employee to retain employment, which may include vocational counselling, re-skilling, up-skilling, altering of their work environment or job adjustments and any other reasonable accommodation of the impaired employee.
In addition to the above obligations, the employer may also appoint an Employee Health and Wellness Representative (EHWR) to implement these Regulations and act as liaison with all other relevant stakeholders, including the Compensation Fund or Licensee, the Case Manager, the Disability Manager and all involved Medical Service Providers and specialists. The EHWR, according to the Regulations, must, among other requirements, have the necessary knowledge, skill and competence in the application of these Regulations. Should an employer elect not to appoint an EHWR, the employer must perform all necessary functions by default.
In terms of the COIDA Amendment Act, an employer must keep a register or record of the earnings and other prescribed particulars of all their employees, for no less than five years, and shall at all reasonable times produce a copy thereof on demand to an authorised person for inspection, failing which the employer may be liable to a penalty not exceeding 10% of actual or estimated annual assessments.
Furthermore, an employer must keep all rehabilitation and return-to-work reports, for no less than forty years – apparently long after the employer and impaired employee have most possibly passed.
NEASA has submitted written comments on these Regulations in an effort to mitigate the impact of the administrative and financial burdens thereof upon employers. Time will tell whether the relevant Parliamentary Committee, which is to debate and amend these Regulations, will consider all public input, and see reason.
We will keep employers abreast of the development in this regard.
For more information:
NEASA Media Department