Columnists Features

Workers’ Compensation not the same old story

TRUTH be told. No matter how impressive our improvement plan is, it will make no difference unless people want it to succeed.
Especially the people directly or indirectly connected with workers’ compensation business, you might want to call them ‘members of the legal community of workers’ compensation.
Unless employers amenable to the Workers’ Compensation Act meet their legal obligations, beneficiaries draw different sorts of compensation benefits and workers receive coverage, the improvement plan for the institution will not achieve much.
By improvement plan, we are referring to the policy documents developed in recent times to address stakeholder concerns on governance, administration and management of the workers’ compensation scheme.
That is why we cannot afford the same old story of leaving in the comfort zone. The workers’ compensation of today is a result of deliberate actions taken to change the institution in recent times. As we open yet another calendar year, it becomes necessary to take a look into 2014 and inform our readers about some of the developments that have taken place.
In the past, our operations, notwithstanding that we have 19 branch offices across the country, have been heavily centralised. It was proving difficult to serve our clients well in the long run until a deliberate decision was taken to decentralise our operations.
The decentralisation process was seeking to make our services easily accessible. And we should confirm as a result, we witnessed the opening of the first ever customer service centre in Lusaka.
In a bid to make it easier for our employers to submit assessments, we introduced an online calculator facility accessible through our website for employers to use in computing assessments payable into the fund. This facility reduces physical interactions between our inspectors and employers.
Our employees remain the key driver of our improvement plan, and we must inform you that tailor made in house workshops were conducted for all employees in the institution to equip them with skills and knowledge needed to serve clients better.
In addition to capacity building, meetings with all staff in the institution have been held to appreciate expectation gaps, among other things.
This was undertaken and recommendations by the actuarial presented to the Minister of Labour and Social Security for approval. We can confirm that as a result, we shall soon announce an increment of pension payments and other measures taken to improve benefits.
This we must say was actually behind for many years and in a record period of six years after the conclusion of the 2014 financial year, we were able to submit to the Minister of Labour and Social Security audited accounts as per requirement under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
We must also let you know that connecting with our customers has been difficult but that for the first time last year, we were able to connect with widows in Kitwe.
Small as the gesture may have been, it meant a lot for more than 50 widows who were invited to a luncheon by the commissioner to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. It is difficult to forget those touching songs by the widows in appreciation of the gesture extended to them.
Readers may also wish to know that some 11 pensioners were graduating with various certificates from the National Vocational Rehabilitation Centre in Ndola as a result of the scholarships awarded under the return to work programme.
Our institution actually did sponsor the graduation ceremony for all the students at National Vocational Rehabilitation Centre as part of our corporate social responsibility.
This was carried out in an effort to help reduce accidents and diseases in the work place. Our department of occupational health, rehabilitation and safety visited several work places to conduct sensitisation programmes on health and safety.
In addition, we ran a strip every Monday in the Times of Zambia and sponsored a news segment on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation television.
Relationship with the Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS) was established to pay compensation benefits through their network of offices as part of ongoing improvements to service delivery. The ZNBS relationship was an addition to the Zampost, Zanaco and NATSAVE relationships already existing.
These developments are just part of the many others not accommodated in this space but we must add that some sound investment decisions were also made to improve fund size and they included the flagship of Ndola ‘Kafubu Mall and Poseldon property in Lusaka.
Well in conclusion, what I can say about our institution is that the world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
If the speed of change outside our organisation is greater than the speed of change inside our organisation, the end is near. That is why we were in a hurry to keep up with the speed of change outside our institution.
Happy New Year!

The author is Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board corporate affairs and customer services manager

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