Workers’ Compensation Fund bags best Interpretation of Theme Award

ONE of the graduating students receiving a certificate from National Vocational Rehabilitation Centre officials.

THE 92nd Agricultural and Commercial Show closed in Lusaka on a high note with Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) Commissioner and chief executive officer Dr Elizabeth Nkumbula walking away with the coveted trophy – Best Interpretation of the Theme. And at the expense of being seen to ‘spike the ball’ senior branch manager for Cairo Michael Zimba followed suit by also walking away with the Best Exhibit Insurance category and 2nd Best Exhibit Pension Fund category during the prize-giving ceremony.
The trophies are attributed to the display and interpretation of the theme ‘sustainable economic empowerment’ in light alone of the activities on core and support areas of the operations of WCFCB.
We acknowledge that sustainability regards utilisation of resources without depletion in order to meet present day needs without compromising the future while empowerment concerns the extent to which measures are taken to enable autonomy and self- determination. The million dollar question is then the extent or how WCFCB has met present day needs without compromising the future and subsequently facilitated autonomy and self-determination first of all its primary clients and more generally the citizens of this country?
The primary client in receipt of monthly pension resulting from occupational injuries or diseases has been granted a facility to commute their monthly pension for the purpose of purchasing low-cost housing units in order to address shelter needs and venturing into business activities to address sustainable development goals number one regarding ‘No Poverty’ and number two which aims to achieve ‘No Hunger’ in the world.
Readers may be interested to learn that some 600 primary clients have so far accessed commutation of the pension payments for the purpose discussed in this article and what resonates with the theme from this activity is that the pension is not depleted whilst enabling other products that ensure self -determination.
Other facilities granted to the primary client to enable self- determination regard provision of high quality medical care in line with sustainable development goal on good health to restore clients to a state which allows their participation in social and economic activities without segregation.
The story about sustainability and economic empowerment of the primary client cannot be told better than to bring out detail on the return to work programme in light of more than 56 disabled workers who have been returned to work.
The 56 form part of a group of many pensioners sponsored to undertake courses at various tertiary institutions of learning in the country, with a view of equipping them with alternative skills for re-entry into the job market, under the return to work strategy. Our rehabilitation counsellor Rodgers Chishimba told the author that WCFCB spent in excess of K300,000 to sponsor the 10 pensioners to pursue courses in general agriculture, metal fabrication and electronics at the National Vocational Rehabilitation Centre in the recent past.
Suffice it to state that return to work progrmmes are critically important to the recovery of lost earning capacities of injured workers and if properly implemented, more value can be derived from the workers compensation system.
The focus is to return injured workers to employment for them to continue earning steady income, and supporting their families more than sustaining them on monthly pensions, which in most cases are not equal to lost earnings.
Elsewhere around the globe, we are told return-to-work strategies and programs for workers injured on duty, have traditionally been used to reduce workers’ compensation costs; they are also known to have been used to improve productivity and morale across an organisation; they can save organisations time and money and they can protect agencies from loss of talent.
We are further educated that examples of effective return-to-work strategies include offering the opportunity to injured workers to work part-time, telecommuting, modifying work duties, modifying schedules, and implementing reasonable accommodations to provide employees with the tools and resources they need to carry out their responsibilities.
Ultimately, effective return to work strategies and programmes allow injured employees to protect their earning power while at the same time boosting the organisation’s productivity.
Furthermore, the ability to return to work after injury or illness plays an important role in the employee’s actual recovery process.
Here in Zambia, return to work strategies are not used to reduce workers’ compensation costs per se, but to return injured workers to employment, and in all cases with another employer or self-employment where job opportunities do not arise in the public or private sector organisations.
Our employers in Zambia are known to separate with workers at the point of workplace injuries that lead to permanent disabilities. The word ‘medical discharge’ is not uncommon especially in the mining sector. As many will agree with us, unemployment, especially for people with disabilities, is the chief driver of poverty and destitution but thanks to a panacea found in the workers’ compensation policy of return to work.
Many workers injured in the course of duty have successfully been returned to employment, and unlike in other countries where when an injured worker is returned to employment, they are also removed from the workers compensation system, in our country, they continue to receive workers compensation benefits until death.
The author is Head Communications and Customer Services Manager at Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board; Email compensation@workers.com.zm; Tel 0212621283

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