Sickness claims submitted by workers are eating into the funds held by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) at a rate of over $50 million per annum.
And while arguing that the NIS was like any other insurance programme, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo today warned that if the number of claims continued to increase, Government may have to start to talk in terms of increasing the premiums paid by Barbadians.
“We cannot believe that when we dip into the National Insurance Fund at a rate of over $50 million annually for sickness claims that it is not going to affect our National Insurance Scheme,” she said, while pointing out that there were challenges with the number of persons contributing to the fund.
“We are an ageing society, so you cannot be taking out money all of the time for sickness claims especially when they are not bona fides claims,” she added.
Addressing the opening of a seminar sponsored by her ministry under the theme: Safe Workplaces are Productive Workplaces at the Accra Beach Hotel, the Government spokeswoman argued that a poor safety and health culture impacted negatively on the NIS.
Byer-Suckoo pointed to recent statistics produced by the department which show that sickness claims continue to place a strain not only on the social security fund, but also the national economy.
She explained that between 2009 and 2014, the NIS approved 54,000 sickness claims at a cost of $38 million annually.
“That is the approved sickness claims, that is not the ones they did not approve for whatever reason. The average is 54,000 annually. The average varies from 51,000 in one year to nearly 70,000 in another year. But over the six year period an average of 54 000 claims were made at an average cost of $38 million annually,” Byer-Suckoo explained.
The Government senator further acknowledged that the majority of sickness claims were for respiratory track infections and strains.
She said the aim of today’s seminar was to limit those claims by reducing workplace injuries and improving the working environment.
She argued that where employers treat health and safety as important as profits, productivity increases.
Conversely, she said where there was a poor health and safety culture it impacted negatively not only on productivity, but also on morale at the workplace.
“There are some employees who would claim sickness benefits because they do not want to go into the workplace. They would not have their doctor write that on the sickness claim. The headaches and the backaches would come,” she said.