Spring fever can be overpowering

Spring is in the air and with it have arrived hay fever and a few other ailments besides. To prevent avoidable deterioration of my immune system, I have avoided opening a newspaper except for emergencies and necessities – such as for the puppies to be house trained.

A case in point: I have in this month at one stage read in the press a story borne either of deep desperation (which is what I felt after reading it) or deep disdain (which is what I feel for the journalist if he or she sucked the story from the thumb). In the event of the latter, this is yet another nail in the coffin of the corpse of my love for the media.

The report concerns the pressures that are at the moment being experienced by the two relevant Funds namely the Unemployment Insurance Fund as well as the Compensation Fund. Because of the recession, or whatever the current messy financial situation can be called, the first Fund is paying out far more this year in benefits to the unemployed than it did last year. The UIF Commissioner according to the press report is praying (maybe not the exact words used in the report) that the recession does not last much longer so as to avoid the reserve fund being depleted. I honestly hope that this apparent optimism is based on sound economic forecasting for personally I cannot foresee a speedy recovery. The President’s promise of the large numbers of jobs that he expects to be created before Xmas is, with respect, a politically-inspired pipe dream.

In the very same report the outbreak of another fever was reported on. This one concerns the newfound pressure on the Compensation Fund created in response to the COID Act. According to the article, the Compensation Commissioner has reported a sharp increase in the number of claims for in juries on duty (I presume from the people still employed and not the unemployed) this year compared with last. As far as I can recall the increase is in excess of 30%. So what it boils down to is that despite the drastic drop in employment (which is placing strain on the UIF and has been reported upon in the first article I mentioned) there is an enormous increase in the number of new workplace injuries.

Try to solve this mystery for me please.

If the insinuation is that persons are committing fraud by pretending to be injured, I fail to see how they can benefit unless they cause permanent disablement to themselves.

The Commissioner’s next statement, if the newspaper can be believed, is that employers are increasingly committing fraud by unlawfully obtaining lower rates of assessment. The industrial rating system in place (for the time being) has been in force for ages and, according to the Commissioner, is being exploited to pay lower assessments. How this is possible defeats me. Here’s why: when you as the employer register your business and submit your annual return of earnings you are requested to furnish a description of the nature of your operations. The office of the Commissioner then allocates the correct rate of assessment at which you will be assessed. So, it’s not the employer that allocates to himself a risk category, it the Compensation Commissioner’s staff who do so. Besides bribery (which I rule out out of respect for my readership), the only way that you can commit fraud is to misrepresent the nature of your operations. You would have to do so in a particularly skilled way because you would have to predict the manner in which the Commissioner’s staff will interpret your falsified information.

But, let me say that I have never once seen such a case during my particularly lengthy career in which the employer deliberately tried to mislead the Commissioner’s office in this way. So how exactly the employers are now on a large scale committing this type of fraud is not clear to me. I am scared to ask, but I have serious doubts whether this is the cause for the Compensation Fund being under pressure at present, if that is in fact the case.

The final worrying aspect on for employers is the fact that the Commissioner has indicated that he is busy reviewing the rating system, which has been in force for more than 50 years. According to the report the task will be finished by next year in March. I hope for your sake that this is not a sophisticated ruse to simply increase your rates to avoid further pressure on the Fund.

Till next month.