Should you contract COVID-19 at work, you are able to lodge a claim with the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) Compensation Fund.
Since the pandemic hit South Africa, the fund has been processing claims, and data from the DEL is rather concerning.
The Compensation Fund has reportedly received 941 claims to date with the majority of those claims – 657 – coming from the Western Cape.
Things get worse however when the numbers look at sex. In the Western Cape of the 657 claims, 533 are from women.
The trend continues in the Eastern Cape, where of the 127 claims, 99 are women.
The question then becomes, why are are so many women contracting COVID-19 at work compared to men. The answer appears to be that women make up a large portion of the healthcare workers on the frontlines.
“We are aware that our frontline workers like nurses and other medical staff have been affected by the pandemic. We will like to send the appeal for employers to ensure that workers are adequately protected and are given the necessary protective gear to do their jobs,” Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi said in a statement.
“Our figures show that most affected employees are nurses who are paying the ultimate price so that we get a second chance and survive the pandemic,” the minister added.
Perhaps most concerning is that the minister reports that compliance with COVID-19 safety regulations is minimal at best. The minister says the compliance rates in the private sector sit at 57 percent and 47 percent in the public sector.
The minister urged business owners to comply with regulations and told workers not to stand for working in dangerous conditions.
“Equally, workers should refuse to work under dangerous conditions. Just this week, a company that flouted labour laws and did not adhere to lockdown regulations was found guilty and fined. It was the workers in that company who blew the whistle and both employer and employee have a responsibility for health and safety, albeit with differing roles,” said Nxesi.
While that is a good message to send, we do wonder how many workers are willing to report an employee given the number of business closures we’ve seen which lead to rising unemployment numbers.
The minister says that his department is conducted inspections more frequently so if you are a business owner who is not compliant, we encourage you to comply.