At a special event held on 17 September 2016, local engineering firm, TDS Projects announced that they are launching an employee occupational health benefits program aimed at improving the lives of their staff. The initiative, administered by OCSACare, aims to help support employee wellness for TDS employees working on sites in remote areas.
According to Lorrette Coetzee, who headed up implementation of the program, TDS started noticing a trend in sick leave spiking at certain times of the year and after an investigation found that this was mostly due to staff not being able to afford medical care. “We found that lack of access to adequate healthcare and medical benefits affected our employees’ ability to perform and in some cases lead to absenteeism,” explains Coetzee. “OCSACare offered us the ideal solution. They negotiated with local doctors, dentists and pharmacists to ensure that staff in out of the way areas would have access to affordable healthcare that they were previously deprived of due to the cost thereof.”
Some of TDS’s staff members were already on the cheapest medical aid options but still experienced difficulties in getting access to medical care due to the restrictions that these funds imposed on both the members as well as on the service providers. In seeking help, TDS turned to Rudolf de Bruyn of Optivest Health Solutions who are responsible for administering TDS’s staff medical aid program. “We enquired about the availability of affordable products for blue collar workers in the market and were surprised to find that there was very little choice. We were adamant that we wanted an affordable product that provided good service and quality products to our staff. Optivest provided various options and among them was OCSACare which provided the ideal solution as it is not a medical aid but an occupational health product.”
Evidence shows that workplace health programs can be highly effective in promoting healthy behaviours and ensuring employers offer South Africans a healthy and safe working environment. Recent media reports indicate that medical aid contributions will be increasing drastically, which for TDS management indicates the worrying prospect that private medical care is set to become a luxury that few can afford. “We cannot emphasize the value of our staff enough and it is disheartening that statistically only around 20% of all employees can afford private healthcare,” Coetzee says in stating TDS’s intentions for the program.
“With OCSACare the aim for our staff is to obtain access to respectable basic medical care, prevent and manage sickness and disease timeously, provide access to local medical service providers in remote areas thereby eliminating the additional travel costs, achieving an improved work-life and removing the ‘elitist’ stigma around medical care by providing everyone with the same benefits.” TDS will now contribute fully to OCSACare’s program on behalf of all their employees. To complement the services that employees now have access to and to ensure that employee wellness is addressed holistically, OCSACare held an information session with the staff and TDS has also implemented a monthly health and safety campaign. All of this is now offered to TDS employees alongside their current medical aid and pension fund benefits offered to permanent staff.
Coetzee says that at the moment these benefits extend to the main member as a first priority because they would most likely be the bread winner for their family but hopes to find an affordable option to extend care to family members in the future. “Helping our employees – and eventually their families too – creates a win-win situation. We are able to improve the general state of health of our employees and TDS benefits by managing sick leave and limiting absenteeism which has an undesirable effect on productivity.”
“From the start our Board of Directors decided that we wanted to build a trustworthy, stable South African Brand. We are cultivating an employee-focused growth strategy, and we believe that we can provide opportunities that build not only structures but also healthy communities that positively impact lives,” Coetzee concludes.