New laws for South Africans who get COVID-19 while at work

New laws for South Africans who get COVID-19 while at work

Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi has gazetted new directives regarding the compensation of employees who contract COVID-19 in the workplace.

The new directives are an amendment to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act which clarify the circumstances under which employees may claim money from the Compensation Fund in the event they contract COVID-19.

“This directive deals with workplace-acquired COVID-19 resulting from work-related exposures; exposure to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace; or while travelling on an official trip to high-risk countries or areas on work assignment or while performing any duty in pursuance of the employer’s business,” the directive states.

Payouts for COVID-19 claims are made by the Compensation Fund, which is administered by the Compensation Commissioner.

This means that the employer will not process or pay an employee’s claim directly, but the compensation will be acquired through the Compensation Fund.

The new directives note that the diagnosis of workplace-acquired COVID-19 relies on the following:

  • 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

If these diagnostic criteria are met, the argument can be made that the employee has contracted COVID-19 at the workplace.

Risk categories

The directive further classifies various occupations as very high, high, medium, and low-risk for exposure to COVID-19.

Examples of these categories are shown below:

  • Very High risk – Healthcare employees, laboratory employees, morgue employees
  • High risk – Healthcare delivery and support employees, Medical transport employees
  • Medium risk – 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 – Occupations that do not require close contact with people

“The medical officers in the Compensation Fund will determine whether the diagnosis of COVID-19 was made according to acceptable standards,” the directive said.

It added that the above categories of occupations only exist as a guideline, and every employee regardless of occupation is entitled to make a claim for compensation in the event they contract COVID-19 at the workplace.

The full gazette is embedded below.