Columnists Features

Understanding social security programmes

SOCIAL security programmes are sometimes incorrectly characterised as simply providing ex post responses to insured risk events.
In the case of workers’ compensation, risk events relate to work injuries and diseases and in the case of pension plans or schemes obtaining in other social security schemes, risk events relate to advances in age and natural incapacitations.
This perceived role of social security is adjusting, with relative emphasis moving towards giving greater priority to the needs of “individuals”, including the alleviation of poverty in all its dimensions and meeting the complex needs of those marginal to formal labour markets.
This is what is coming from researchers on social security protection floors at the International Social Security Association.
What is more interesting in the unfolding paradigm shift is the effort being advanced to achieve a better balance in, and make more effective use of, all the protective, preventive and rehabilitative roles inherent in social security systems.
With this kind of advancement, social security can be used to achieve greater goals of social justice and economic efficiency.
What we must bring out in this article is that social security worldwide has moved to another level where higher order goals of poverty alleviation and economic advancement are being addressed through what is popularly known as “dynamic social security’.
The concept of dynamism refers to systems that are accessible, sustainable, adequate, socially inclusive and economically productive, and that are based on performing, well governed, proactive and innovative social security institutions.
As far as we are concerned, achieving a better balance of the principles of dynamic social security calls for active participation of all stakeholders involved in social security administration.
And let me admit that there are many branches of social security but I only have authority to comment on employment injury and disease under the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB).
We note government’s active participation in formulating the necessary legal framework for the administration of the workers’ compensation system and the supporting governance structure which has included appointments of a board of directors consisting of representatives from employer associations, the government, employee representatives and beneficiaries’ association.
The government has also appointed an appeals tribunal to hear appeals against decisions of WCFCB on compensation matters, which consists of lawyers, doctors and worker representative associations.
What is desired now is the active participation of employers in ensuring that registration of businesses, payment of assessments and reporting of accidents and diseases is done in accordance with the workers’ compensation law.
There appears to be a problem generally with some employers who often have to be convinced or even compelled to register, pay assessments and report accidents.
Readers may recall a news story in The Post newspaper recently quoting an employee from a Kafue based company who complained that the employer had not been reporting accidents for compensation.
There are numerous other cases of occupational accidents that are not being reported in time, and it is most unfortunate. Readers may wish to know that the problem of not reporting accidents in time is exaggerated by failure to register businesses and payment of assessments in most instances.
We discuss these issues to enlighten you on the challenges that we are facing in adapting to dynamic social security.
Readers may wish to know that employers are the financiers of the scheme and only if they can appreciate the concept of dynamic social security, will they be able to actively participate in the affairs of the institution.
There is no doubt in our minds that active employer participation in the administration of the workers’ compensation system will ultimately result in achievement of dynamic social security.
And we must commend Parmalat Zambia for contacting us for a session to be held with employees at the institution to run through workers’ compensation procedures and other matters related to the health and safety of employees.
This is how it should be. Employers must be seen to be playing an active role as the case in point is. What Parmalat is doing is to engage us in order to get an appreciation of the workers’ compensation procedures and to tackle matters relating to the work environment.
The other part must be played by ourselves to ensure that workers receive their compensation and that compensation must be adequate. Adequacy not only in terms of cash but also other value adding services such as those we have discussed in the past; rehabilitation and returning to work, among others.
The author is Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board corporate affairs and customer services manager

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