New rules around employees who get Covid-19 at work in South Africa

Minister of Labour and Employment Thulas Nxesi has published a new directive focusing on employees who contract Covid-19 in work-related exposures.

The new directive specifically deals with Covid-19 disability and death claims from the Compensation Fund under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida), and the workers that are considered high, medium and low-risk.

The new rules lay out how the compensation fund goes about assessing claims made by employees who caught Covid-19 at work, based on their risk levels and conditions of exposure to the virus.

“In terms of Section 45 of the Coida, the Compensation Fund is obliged to consider all claims submitted for compensation and adjudicate all claims to determine liability. In carrying out this task, the fund peruses all information submitted to make an operative decision.

“In addition to exposure and clinical history, the fund also considers the inherent risk posed by various categories of work and occupations.”

The directive indicates that a workplace-acquired Covid-19 diagnosis relies on:

  • Assessment of the inherent risk posed by various categories of work;
  • Exposure to a known source of Covid-19;
  • An approved official trip and travel history to countries and/or areas of high risk for Covid-19 on work assignment;
  • A reliable diagnosis of Covid-19 as per the WHO guidelines;
  • A chronological sequence between exposure at the workplace and the development of symptoms.

The directive categorises the various occupations as follows:

Very high exposure

These include those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of Covid-19 during medical procedures. These include:

  • Healthcare employees (including doctors, nurses and dentists) performing aerosol-generating procedures;
  • Healthcare or laboratory employees;
  • Healthcare employees conducting cardio-respiratory function testing;
  • Morgue employees.

High risk exposure

These include those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of Covid-19. These include:

  • Healthcare delivery and support employees;
  • Medical transport employees;
  • Mortuary employees involved in preparing bodies.

Medium risk exposure

These include occupations that require frequent or close contact with people who may be infected with Covid-19 but who are not known or suspected patients

Low risk exposure

This includes occupations that do not require close contact with people.

Impairment and benefits

The Department of Labour and Employment said that an assessment of permanent impairment shall be determined within three months after diagnosis and when ‘maximum medical improvement’  has been reached.

It added that the degree of impairment will be evaluated based on the medical complications of the Covid-19 from the affected body systems.

Depending on the findings, the directive indicates that benefits will be paid out based on the level of disability as well as death.

These rules remain in place until it is withdrawn by the minister or the national state of disaster is withdrawn.

You can read the full directive below.

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