THERE is no doubt that the introduction of the Employees Compensation Scheme, ECS, by the Federal Government is introducing through the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF a paradigm shift into the world of work.
Among other benefits, the scheme now ensures that injured workers are no longer abandoned to their fate.
Giving details of the benefits of ECS Acting Managing Director of NSITF, Ismail Agaka, said that ECS was meant to ensure the safety of both employers and employees.
Employers, workers expose to hazards
Some employers are of the opinion that ECS benefits only workers hence their reluctance to enroll their workforce on the scheme. This is an erroneous viewpoint. Everybody is exposed to one form of occupational hazards or the other in the workplace.
So, it is wrong for employers to say it does not concern them. Joining this kind of scheme boosts the morale of the employees without shouting about it. Boosting the moral of employees is more than just increasing the salaries and allowances.
The higher productivity in the workplace always shows in the bottom-line of organizations. Higher bottom-line means more money coming into the company. It also leads to better industrial climate in the workplace. A harmonious industrial relation in the country would lead to national cohesion.
The burden of care is transferred from the employer to the NSITF should there is any workplace accident, injury, disability or occupational disease. The scheme helps employers overcome unanticipated expenditure especially if such comes when the organization is not financially strong enough for such expenses.
How does organization address this kind of development during a period it is facing cash flow challenges? Such development could lead to employees seeing their employers as wicked and uncaring regardless of challenges such employers may be going through.
Benefits of ECS
Among others, ECS also applies to victims of plane crashes who lose their lives in the course of work. First, if the employer of such a victim of plane crash was registered, survivors of such a worker would be compensated.
Secondly, the journey must be in the course of carrying out official duty. If it is confirmed that it was an official trip in the course of work, then the next of kin or dependants of the deceased employee ae covered. Indeed, many such claims have been processed by the NSITF.
If there is an accident, the employer owes his or her employee the duty of care by offering him or her at least first aid treatment. It is after the stabilization of the worker that the office now reports to the NSITF and then the process begins. Whatever medical expenses that might have been incurred prior to reporting to the NSITF are refunded.
If there is any need for the employee to obtain further rehabilitation as the case may be, it is the responsibility of the NSITF. But the first point is that the employer must be registered on the scheme and also the accident must also be reported to the Fund through a laid down procedure.
The Act establishing the ECS only recognizes up to four children as the maximum number of beneficiaries. We have a family whose breadwinner died and after the computation of the entitlements, we are now paying up to N1.3million monthly to the beneficiaries. That represents 90 per cent of the last income of the deceased breadwinner.
ECS, Pension scheme:
The major difference between ECS and pension scheme is that while individuals can increase their rates of contribution in pension, there is no such provision in the ECS. The scheme is for people that are working only and not for retirees. There is no provision for any employee to register on his own.
Every worker willing to register must come through an employer because the scheme is employers’ obligation.
We are in the process of reviewing our rate of contribution to reflect the risk exposure of organizations. While there is risk rating, there would also be merit rating. Merit rating is reviewing downwards the contribution of those that are regular in their contributions and are not in the habit of filling claims for compensation periodically.
As at today, the scheme has registered 45,000 employers, paid over N700million as compensation to over 6,000 workers that sustained various degrees of injuries in the course of work. There is a fresh vigour to sensitize the trade unions as well as employers on the need to enroll in the scheme for the safety of their workforce.
One of our major challenges is that we have not sensitized our publics enough. But we are now embarking on an aggressive enlightenment of our publics that included the trade unions and employers of labour.
We are also talking to the state governments telling them benefits of the ECS. Bauchi State is already registered on the scheme and will soon begin contributing. The process of its contribution is still in the works and we expect the details to be finalized soon. We have received invitation from many states to make presentation on the scheme.
We indeed have met with the Lagos State government officials and are now in the process of getting them registered. The management is talking with Edo and Zamfara states with a view to getting them on board soon.
The reigning economic challenge has also limited our reach in terms of collecting contributions from employers. There are some employers that have to close shop amongst those that have registered while those that have not closed shop have had to reduce their workforce drastically or reduce staff salaries because contribution is a function of the payroll of organizations.
Therefore, the reduction of staff or their salaries will affect the amount of contribution into the scheme directly.
There is a bill in the National Assembly for the amendment of the NSITF Act for it to execute other programmes apart from the employees Compensation Scheme. That bill has gone very far in the legislative process. What we are waiting for now is the public hearing.