The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), No. 130 of 1993, allows for employees to claim compensation if an employee is disabled or disabled as a result of an occupational injury or diseases that happen while performing their job.

You must register with COIDA

All employers need to be registered with the Compensation Fund which is the fund that administers COID claims. Once registered,  the employer will need to make the contributions for the Fund.

What is ‘work’ according to COIDA?

This is not clear as it might seem in De Gee v Transnet SOC Ltd (30085/2015) [2019] ZAGPJHC 2, the High Court had the opportunity to consider when an occupational injury can be said to have occurred during the course and scope of an employee’s employment for purposes of COIDA.

De Gee, was an executive support manager and injured his lumbar spine when the lift he was travelling in fell approximately seven floors. He was using the lift to gain access to his office situated on the 48th floor of his employer’s building.

The court laid out the following guidelines to determine whether the employee was acting in the course and scope of his employment when the injury occurred:

  1. An employee is acting in the course of his employment when he is doing something he was employed to do.
  2. Where an employee is travelling to or from work, the journey is dis-associated from the employee’s employment unless the employee is fulfilling an obligation imposed by the contract of employment.
  3. An employee does not start working until he has reached his work unless – at the time the injury occurred – the employee was doing something in discharge of his duty towards his employer.
  4. After an employee has finished his work for the day and has started his way home, his employment continues while navigating the premises. Once an employee reaches a place of public access, his status as a worker is removed and he becomes a member of the general public.
  5. An employee may be deemed to be working while travelling to work if he is required to follow a prescribed route or is required to use a prescribed means of transport.
  6. In all cases where an employee – in going to or leaving – work suffers an accident on the way, the first question to be determined is whether an employee was at the place where the accident occurred by virtue of his employment or if as a member of the public.

The court concluded that, based on the evidence before it, there was insufficient proof to determine whether at the time of the incident the employee was acting in the course and scope of his employment. On this basis, the court found that the employee’s claim was not covered by COIDA.

How does COIDA determine ‘disablement’?

COIDA defines ‘disablement’ as follows:

“temporary partial disablement, temporary total disablement, permanent disablement or serious disfigurement, as the case may be”

From the above definition, it can be inferred that an employee may claim compensation in terms of COIDA if he is no longer able to work because he or she has been disabled as a result of occupational injuries or disease sustained while performing his or her job. Alternatively, the employee may claim benefits should he or she be off work for a period of time due to the disabling effect of the occupational injuries or diseases but be  in a position to return to work after a time.

Can relatives of a deceased employee claim COIDA benefits?

If one of your employees dies as a result of an occupational disease or injury, a relative may claim the employee’s benefits. These relatives include:

  • A widow or widower who, when the employee passed away, was married to the employee according to civil law, indigenous law or custom. (The latter two options are only valid should the employee or his widow not have been part of another, pre-existing civil marriage.) Alternatively, if there was no marriage – but the widow/widower was living with the employee at the time as if they were husband and wife – the surviving partner is entitled to claim the COID benefits.
  • A child – of the employee or of his/her spouse of a previous marriage – who is under 18. These children may include a:

–   Child born after the death of the employee,

–   Step child,

–  Adopted child, or

–  Child born out of wedlock.

  • A parent or another person who, as far as the Director-General is concerned – was acting in the role of a parent and was either wholly or partly financially dependent on the employee when he or she died.
  • A sibling or half sibling of the employee.
  • A grandchild of the employee.

As stated above, as an employer it is your legal duty to be registered with the Compensation Fund and pay over the contributions to the Fund. It is thus imperative for you and your HR department to know when a claim may be lodged so that this information can be disseminated properly to your employees.

– Jonathan Goldberg & Grant Wilkinson