Using an independent contractor? You still need to comply with the Compensation Act.
Employing smaller companies as sub- or independent contractors gives your own business more flexibility and allows local contractors to expand their business. But, did you know that as the client, you might be held civilly liable for any costs or compensation in case of work-related injuries or illness?
According to Section 22 of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, no 130 of 1993 (COIDA), all employees have the right to compensation where they are injured, disabled or become ill as a result of a workplace incident or work-related disease. It is, however, important to note that there is a difference between an ‘employee’ and an ‘independent contractor’.
The Labour Relations Act, no 66 of 1995 makes this distinction when it defines an employee as “any person, excluding an independent contractor who works for another person or for the State…”. The situation is viewed differently when an independent contractor or one of their employees is injured, disabled or becomes ill due to any incident that takes place on the mandator’s premises, or on a place where the mandator had undertaken to execute any works.
In practice, the sub-contractor should be registered as the employer of his/her workers and be responsible for COIDA-related costs. If your sub-contractor has not done this, you as the mandator/contractor automatically becomes the employer and will be held responsible by default.
Section 89 (1) of COIDA titled Contractors and sub-contractors specifies who carries what responsibility in this instance:
Click here to find out how you can safeguard your business against this risk.
Fortunately, there are various mechanisms in place to protect your company when it comes to COIDA. Firstly, make sure that your Contractors’ All Risk, Construction Liability and Professional Indemnity policies are up to date with GRIB.
Always request a Letter of Good Standing from your sub-contractor. This is a certificate from the Compensation Fund that verifies that a business exists, has paid all its statutory dues, has met all relevant filing requirements and is subsequently authorised to operate. The Construction Regulations as promulgated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 also requires you to ensure that contractors (and sub-contractors) are registered and in good standing with the Compensation Fund, or with a licensed compensation insurer.
COIDA does provide you with a measure of protection, too. As the mandator/contractor, the Act allows you to pay the assessment fees relevant to the employees in question – and to recover these fees from the sub-contractor. Alternatively, this amount may be set off against any monies owed to the sub-contractor.
Sub-contractors must be aware that certain conditions must be met to apply for a Letter of Good Standing. These specify that:
While COIDA exists to protect employees and employers alike, it is always a good idea to know your rights. You also need to be aware of the options and opportunities available to cover you and your business against eventualities and unforeseen, unexpected claims and compensation costs. Always make sure that your house is in order before entering into any contract with an independent or sub-contractor, and always request a Letter of Good Standing. If a sub-contractor cannot provide one, it might be safer to reconsider your options.
GRIB provides niche risk solutions to the construction and civils industry. We pride ourselves on delivering world class customer-centric services and specialist advice. We specialise in Construction Guarantees, Contractors’ All Risk Insurance, Construction Liability, Professional Indemnity and Plant All Risk Insurance.