By Funmi Komolafe
WEDNESDAY, October 31st provided an opportunity for a selected group of workers under the umbrella of the Lagos state branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, to abreast of the operations of the Employees Compensation Scheme, ECS, a fall-out of Employee’s Compensation Act, ECA, and also raise issues. It was an interactive session with the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF,in Lagos, facilitated by Unite Consult Limited.
THE Managing Director of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, Alhaji Umar Munir Abubakar set the tone for the interactive session when he spoke of the Fund’s modest achievements and the determination of the management team to ensure the success of the scheme.
He told the union leaders representing private and public sector unions that they have a duty to ensure that employers make their contributions as stated in the Employees Compensation Act 2010.
Alhaji Abubakar told them that “If employers are not paying, the worker is left in a limbo. Give the scheme your personal support. It is your own. Ensure it is sustained. If we don’t get money, that means the scheme will fail”.
What is the Employees Compensation Act, who pays?
NSITF management explained, “The ECA replaces the old outdated Workmen Compensation Act, WCA, and aims at addressing the shortcomings of the 58 year old WCA . It is contributory scheme funded with one per cent contribution of employee’s monthly pay (gross) payable by employers. The new Act allows for sustainable pool of fund for payment of compensation to employees who suffer from occupational diseases or sustain injuries arising from accident at the work place or in the course of employment”.
With the definition and main objective spelt out, NSITF told the union leaders that the Act states that the employer contributes one percent of gross pay but where the employer chooses to pay one per cent of “ total remuneration “ in the context of basic salary, housing and transport allowance , “ultimately the employee ( claimant) is short changed. So, one per cent of total remuneration is preferred.
1,200 employers key-in
NSITF disclosed that as at October, 2012, a total of 1,200 employers had registered with 12 commercial banks listed as contribution collection banks. To date, the organization reported that it has received 177 applications of which a total of 76 claims have been processed and paid up to date. The number of employers involved is 65 and a total of about N15 million paid to the 76 claimants”.
It emphasized that all accident claims must be related to the work the employee is engaged to do.
The union leaders suggested that if an employee on vacation sustains injury he/ she should be accommodated under the scheme . They argued that since the employee is on leave with the permission of the employer who still contributes, such an employee must be covered by the scheme. NSITF management agreed but said this would be part of the input to be made by stakeholders; NLC Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association etc when a review of the Act is proposed.
Workers were also assured that employees on contract are not excluded from the Scheme.
Abubakar said the owner of the outsourced firm is expected to make contributions on behalf of his employees.
Union representatives also asked that if a worker is found to have for instance lung cancer after he left the service of his employer and the ailment was traced to hazards of the job in the company where he worked previously , will such a person be covered by the scheme?
NSITF responded in the affirmative. Spokesperson for the management said, “Even after working for a company if a disease is discovered and traced to the work place and the employer is contributing, then the former employee will be compensated”.
It must be noted that all medical claims must be from the hospital the employer uses or authenticated by that hospital. To prevent abuses by hospitals , NSITF intends to work with the Nigeria Medical Association to introduce a scale of fees.
How to report an accident or occupation disease
The first step is for the employee or someone on his/ her behalf report to any accident or injury verbally or in writing to the employer immediately; to enable the employer takes necessary steps to complete Form ECS. BF01.
The scheme has cash and non- cash benefits. However, failure to follow the procedure may delay or deny the claimant his or her benefits hence union representatives were advised to educate their members and ensure compliance by employers.
Benefits of the Scheme-
NSITF explained at the Cash benefits include,
“Compensation for injuries occurring in the normal workplace, compensation for mental stress, compensation for occupation disease, compensation for hearing impairment. In fatal cases (death) as much as 90% of the total remuneration of the deceased employee is paid to the dependant of the deceased until the occurrences of certain events specified by the Act”.
Non – Cash benefits included “Provision of artificial appliances including limbs where necessary, Vocational, rehabilitation and counseling services to injured employee with a view to bringing the employee back to work, the scale of compensation has been actually determined for claims on partial disability, permanent disability, temporary disability and death”.
At the end of the interactive session the two parties; union representatives and NSITF agreed to play their part to ensure the success of the scheme which has been commended by the International Labour Organisation, ILO.