COIDA provides for employees to receive compensation for injuries and diseases contracted at work. Given the current pandemic, many employers are grappling with whether or not to submit COIDA claims for Covid-19.
The issue is not straightforward. COIDA only covers situations where an employee’s injury or disease is occupational in nature (i.e. arises from his occupation / job). The difficulty with contagious diseases like Covid-19, is that it is often extremely difficult to pinpoint the source of the infection, and in particular, whether or not it was contracted in the workplace.
In the directions published by the Minister of Employment and Labour on 11 June 2021, it states that if there is evidence that a worker contracted Covid-19 arising out of and in the course of employment, a claim for compensation should be lodged in terms of COIDA.
There are certain occupations where it is easier to demonstrate that a worker contracted Covid-19 arising out of and in the course of employment. For example, in the mining industry where mineworkers live in employer-provided accommodation such as hostels on the mine, there is a high probability that if they contract the disease, this has taken place in the workplace.
On the other hand, when it comes to office-based workers to return home every evening and spend weekends at home away from the workplace, it is far more difficult to conclude that a positive case is linked to the workplace. This task may be made easier if it is established that another employee was Covid-19 positive, and that this was the likely cause of the infection of other colleagues in the workplace.
It is also important to note that COIDA claims for Covid-19 generally do not arise for short-term infections which result in temporary incapacity (for example, if a person has the condition and is on sick leave for two weeks to recover), and instead, covers circumstances where the employee becomes incapacitated for a longer period.