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Paying assessments: More than just obeying the law

IN MANY people’s eyes, paying workers compensation assessment means complying with the law of the land in which they are carrying business activities. This is a good starting position for today’s subject but not a good position to end the issue.
Yes assessments mean different things to different people. To some it means another form of tax which adds to the cost of doing business, yet to others a system of passing over the burden of meeting costs of compensating workers to a central fund. To other people, it may not even mean anything at all and so they are not interested to know the purpose of paying assessments to the Workers Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB).
As readers may be aware by now, the mandate of WCFCB is to compensate workers for disabilities arising from and in the course of duty. WCFCB is a central fund to which all employers amenable to the Workers’ Compensation Act No. 10 of 1999 of the Laws of Zambia make statutory financial contributions, otherwise known as assessments. Assessments constitute the primary source of revenue for the central fund administered by WCFCB from which compensation expenses are defrayed.
The assessments which employers contribute to the central fund are determined by the Commissioner on the basis of statements of workers’ earnings submitted annually. The rates of assessments payable are fixed from time to time according to the estimated requirements of the fund and to the risk and cost of compensation payable to workers.
At present, the ceiling for assessment rates is fixed at K800 per month or K9,600 per annum subject to business classification as published in the Government Gazette Notice, employers make assessment contributions at different rates.
In the calendar of WCFCB which runs from April 1 to March 31 of the following year, assessments are supposed to be paid as soon as possible but not later than 30 days after receiving notification from the Commissioner. The Commissioner notifies employers of the assessment due to WCFCB between April and May of each calendar year.
It goes without saying that paying assessments means complying with the law but perhaps the critical question we must reflect on is what is the purpose of these assessments if they are not just another form of tax? Assessments play a critical role in the establishment of a robust social security system for protection of workers and their families against poverty and destitution attributed, in part, to loss of earning capacity as a result of employment activity.
Various stakeholders have expressed concern on the level of compensation packages awarded to eligible workers hence the current process running to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act. But it becomes necessary for this article to bring out another critically important aspect to the creation of a robust protection system to fight poverty and destitution.
Yielding positive solutions to our current problems of inadequate benefits is highly dependent on the payment of assessments to the central fund, without coercion or any form of intervention, by those who are entrusted with the responsibility to make financial contributions to WCFCB.
Our experience has shown that as thousands of employers are submitting statements of workers’ earnings for the year which commenced on April 1, 2016 for determination of assessments due to WCFCB, several others are waiting for WCFCB to coerce them to comply with the law.
WCFCB will have to issue warning messages, enter into agreements and even prosecute some employers to compel them to pay assessments into the fund for administration of the workers compensation scheme.
Failure to pay assessments which constitute the primary source of revenue, the other being return on investment of surplus income for WCFCB to provide critical services such as income replacements, health care and other rehabilitation services to enable injured workers participate in social and economic activities without discrimination on the basis of disability, deprives the central fund of income needed to execute its mandate.
Such actions by some employers are detrimental to the creation of a just and properly functioning society.
Readers may wish to know that modern business enterprises are shifting attention from concentrating on business for profit to business for the good of society and its people, hence the development of corporate social responsibility theories to support business.
That is why it is critically important for any normally functioning business house to take care of the environment and the people who provide the resources for production of goods or services which sustain the business.
Business houses need to care for people including workers by ensuring that their lives are well protected should they contract diseases or injuries as a result of employment activities. It becomes necessary for business houses to be more altruistic in approaching the issue of paying assessments to WCFCB beyond just legal compliance, if we are going to create an inclusive and just society.
Remember, thousands of people depend for their livelihood on what the central fund at WCFCB is able to provide for them and their families in critical times when they are no longer able to earn income as a result of disability.
Your actions or the lack of it makes positive or negative contributions to these people who form part of the society in which we live, and our actions now and the future will be judged by this same society in which we live.
The author is head- communications and customer services at Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board
Tel: 0212621283