In South Africa, not all risks are catered for by
public schemes. The current public social schemes exist to deal with particular
contingencies such as: unemployment, maternity, traffic accident-related injury
or death, unemployment and employment injuries and diseases. When it comes to
old age and health, private insurance schemes are considered. This position is
the same for both employees ordinarily working in the country and migrant
In the employment sphere, however, the social
insurance for migrant employees are limited to only certain circumstances.
The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 130 of 1993 (“COIDA”) provides for compensation for disablement caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by
employees in the course of their employment, or for death resulting from
such injuries or diseases; and to provide for matters
connected therewith. According to section 23(3)(b) of COIDA, where an
employee performs his/her duties within South Africa for a period longer than
12 months, that employee is deemed to be employed in the Republic and,
therefore, enjoys the protection of the Act. This principle is also applicable
to persons who ordinarily work in the Republic, however, performs work on a
temporary basis outside of South Africa.
Therefore, migrant workers also qualify for protection
under COIDA. However, there is a duty on the employer to make the necessary
arrangement for those employees with the Commissioner.
Where it is a case of a non-resident employee who
qualifies for protection in terms of COIDA and social protection in another
country where he/she performs work, following an occupational injury, he/she must
elect to claim compensation either in terms of COIDA or in terms of the law of
the other country.
When it comes to unemployment insurance, migrant
employees seldom enjoy protection under the Unemployment
Insurance Act, 63 of 2001 (“UIA”). According to section 3(1)(d) of the UIA
, persons who enter the country for the purpose of carrying out a contract of
service , apprenticeship or learnership, are not covered by the Act, if there
is a legal or a contractual requirement (agreement or undertaking) that such a
person must leave the country, or that such a person be repatriated, upon
termination of the contract. Therefore, the employer and migrant employee will
not be contributing towards the Unemployment Insurance Fund (“UIF”).
Unfortunately, this leaves migrant employees to be
vulnerable and exploited by South African employers as they are seen as a “cheaper”
In South Africa, public insurance schemes mostly
protect employees that are part of the formal sector. Therefore, the migrant
employees who find themselves in the informal sector will not enjoy the limited
coverage of South Africa’s public insurance schemes.
Accordingly, migrant employees are not protected to
the same extent as employees ordinarily working in South Africa. However,
legislation such as COIDA and UIA do provide for coverage for migrant employees
in limited circumstances. This limited coverage usually only get utilised by
employees in the formal sector.