TWENTY-SIX years ago, a man died from natural causes and in all that time, his widow from Tabuan Jaya was not aware she was eligible to claim benefits from the Social Security Organisation (Socso).
She would still have been none the wiser had she not attended a recent NGO talk at Stampin, where she was able to seek clarification from Socso.
Sarawak Socso director Phillip Sangkan recalled that after he finished giving his talk, the woman came up and told him her husband had passed away from natural causes in October of 1993 and she wanted to know if she was eligible to claim Socso benefits.
“After getting her details and checking our system, we found she is entitled. So we paid her the arrears and now she is enjoying a monthly pension from us,” he said.
He noted that this particular case showed many employees out there might not be aware they had Socso benefits.
But he believes the level of awareness is increasing as Socso is making an effort to let as many people as possible know about the organisation.
“We will not just sit in the office and wait for people to come and see us. Instead, we’re taking proactive steps to get people to know their rights where Socso is concerned.
“One way to do this is for us to engage with employers, employees, NGOs, and even community leaders to get their help in disseminating proper information,” Phillip told thesundaypost.
“Another way is reaching out to Socso contributors through our caring squad known as ‘Skuad Perkeso Prihatin’. We have used this approach throughout the country for the past four years.”
According to him, the squad will even browse through the newspapers or electronic media for accidents or cases that result in injury or loss of human life to find out whether or not the victims are Socso contributors.
If the victims can potentially qualify for Socso benefits, Skuad Perkeso Prihatin will try to contact them or their dependents.
“Even public tip-offs will be entertained,” Phillip said.
He conceded that despite Socso’s efforts to raise awareness, there were still cases that went unreported or unnoticed with the eligible recipients missing out on the benefits.
Such cases, he noted, usually happened in remote places where people were not well informed.
Besides engaging with employers, employees, NGOs, and community leaders, Socso organises activities such as Road Safety and Safety at Workplace campaigns jointly with the agencies concerned.
Also in place is the Commuting Safety Support Programme (CSSP), a concerted effort between Socso and the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), aimed at reducing accidents among motorcyclists.
The CSSP, in force since 2017, provides management training for safe travels and intervention programmes to increase awareness and savvy on road safety, especially for motorcyclists.
Free health screenings are provided for Socso contributors, aged 40 and above. The reason for this programme is the rising number of employees who have become invalid or died from non-communicable diseases.
Early detection of health problems will reduce serious cases, but Phillip pointed out that the free screening take-up rate was very low and one reason could be the contributors’ ignorance of the offer or their couldn’t care less attitude.
He explained Socso is a non-profit body whose concept of social security protection is based on joint responsibility through the pooling of resources, sharing of risks, and replacement of incomes.
“It’s a collaboration of three parties – the employers, the employees, and the government. Contributions made by members are channelled to a Solidarity Fund and the organisation is duty-bound to safeguard this
pool of funds.
“It’s a concept where employees share the same level of exposure and risk, regardless of the industry they work for.
“Sharing of risks in this sense means all contributors are united in agreeing to allow Socso to use the Solidarity Fund to pay benefits to employees who suffer from disability-invalidity or a pension to dependents in the case of death.
“As for those fortunate enough not to face the misfortune of needing to claim benefits from Socso, their contributions are to help the less fortunate.”
Social Security Protection is a basic need that must be fulfilled as agreed upon in the International Labour Organisation Geneva Convention 1992, namely the Convention 102: Minimum Standard of Social Security.
In meeting the objective, Socso’s main function is to provide social security protection to employees and their dependents through the Employment Injury Scheme and the Invalidity Scheme.
“Unlike insurance, this compensation is not a one-time payment. For example, if a worker died, Socso would pay a monthly pension to the widow for the rest of her life, even if the widow has remarried. This is the one thing that differentiates Socso from insurance,” Phillip explained.
Another difference is the rehabilitation benefits.
According to Phillip, Socso provides vocational and physical rehabilitation facilities to employees suffering from permanent disablement.
Physical rehabilitation includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy, reconstructive surgery, as well as the supply of artificial limbs (legs and hands), eyes, dentures, and other prosthetic appliances such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, crutches, spectacles, callipers and orthopaedics shoes, including their repair and replacement.
An employee who is unable to find a suitable job due to his or her permanent disablement can apply to undergo vocational training in courses.
Socso will bear all expenses incurred for vocational and physical rehabilitation, based on rates and conditions determined by the organisation.
Socso has a Return-to-Work (RTW) programme, designed to rehabilitate members, suffering from work-related injury or invalidity, as soon as possible so that they can return to work.
The RTW programme takes a proactive approach to help persons with injuries or diseases by providing them the opportunity to resume safe working activities as soon as is medically possible.
Socso members can return to work when the primary goal of minimising the impact of permanent injuries or disabilities has been achieved.
The programme also collaborates with medical professionals to give the most appropriate medical care to the Socso member to ensure a safe and speedy recovery.
The process is facilitated by a case manager who personally supervises the rehabilitation plan with healthcare providers and the patient while promoting cost-effective care.
The implementation of an effective disability management system relies on the partnership between various stakeholders such as employers, employees, healthcare providers, rehabilitation service providers, government agencies, non-government organisations and various benevolent bodies.
Phillip said so far eight patients from Sarawak had been referred to their Rehabilitation Centre in Melaka, while 115 have gone to panel rehabilitation centres in Sarawak.
Panel centres in Kuching include Normah Medical Specialist Centre, DBC Rehabilitation Centre, Tags Spine & Joint Specialist, Rehab Concept, as well as Tabuan Healthcare and Nursing Centre.
Elsewhere in Sarawak, the panel centres are Rajang Physio Centre and Rejang Healthcare Centre in Sibu, Columbia Asia Hospital in Bintulu, and Tags Spine & Joint Specialist in Miri.
Phillip said there are 755,069 registered employees Sarawak-wide, with 323,172 in Kuching.
“As for employers, there are 44,126 in the whole of Sarawak with 18,192 in Kuching alone.”
He pointed out that Malaysian workers needed to register and contribute to Socso as long as they were employed under a contract of service, irrespective of their salary – and the same goes for the employers in terms of contributions.
As for foreign workers, he said starting January this year, they are required to contribute to Socso and are covered under the Employment Injury Scheme.
He stressed Malaysian employers must register their foreign workers who hold valid documents, and make contributions to Socso to cover the foreign workers on benefits for medical assistance, temporary-permanent disablement, dependents and rehabilitation as well as the Constant Attendance Allowance.
“This is in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation) Convention 1925 (No.19) and the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards.
“It means all foreign workers in Malaysia, including expatriates, will be accorded the same Employment Injury Scheme benefits as local employees. However, benefits under the Invalidity Pension Scheme will not be extended to foreign workers.”
Phillip said for government workers, only those employed under a contract basis are required to contribute to Socso whereas it’s compulsory for government servants, employed under contract and temporary basis, to contribute.
The government workers, he noted, could be in any sector – for example, doctors and teachers – but once upgraded to a permanent basis, they no longer had to contribute to Socso.
For the self-employed, he said, they are covered under the Self-Employment Security Act 2017 (Act 789), which came into force on June 1, 2017.
For a start, this Act would protect those under the Employment Injury Scheme – for example, the self-employed taxi drivers and individuals providing similar services, including Grab Car drivers, he added.
However, in the interim, delivery service riders or drivers such as for Grab food delivery are not yet eligible for protection under this scheme.
On the eligibility and process to claim from Socso, Phillip said there are two schemes for this – the Employment Injury Scheme which is work-related, and the Invalidity Pension Scheme.
According to him, for the work-related scheme, employers should lodge a report if an incident happened to their employees. The report must be submitted within 48 hours.
On the other hand, the Employment Injury Scheme protects employees against accidents or an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of their employment.
The protection covers Industrial accidents, accidents during an emergency, and occupational diseases.
Also included is commuting accident which occurs on the route from the place of residence to the workplace, on a journey made for any reason, directly connected to employment and on a journey between the workplace and the place of taking meal during any authorised recess.
But an accident that occurs during any interruption or deviation shall not be deemed to arise out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.
Coverage under the Employment Injury Scheme includes medical benefit, temporary disablement benefit, permanent disablement benefit, constant attendance allowance, facilities for physical-vocational rehabilitation, dependents’ benefit, funeral benefit, and education benefit.
The Invalidity Pension Scheme offers 24-hour coverage against invalidity or death due to a cause that occurs even outside working hours.
Invalidity refers to a morbid condition impossible or unlikely to be cured. For example, people suffering from terminal diseases or stroke, prohibiting them from doing daily activities, and earning a living.
Both schemes provide cash benefits to employees and their dependents in the event of unforeseen incidents, in addition to medical treatment, physical rehabilitation or vocational training.
Socso also conducts accident-prevention activities through occupational safety and health awareness programmes for employees and employers.
Phillip emphasised it was very important for people to know that once a doctor had certified an employee unfit to work for a minimum of four days (including the day of workplace accident), the employee would qualify for temporary disablement benefit and receive monetary payment during the period the employee was unable to work.
He said employees suffering from permanent disabilities due to workplace accidents, regardless of their ability to work, could claim for permanent disablement benefit.
Employees would be entitled to the Constant Attendance Allowance if they had lost their ability to work and earn as a result of workplace accidents, he added.
This means they are the ones who have been certified by the Medical Board in Malaysia as being invalid or suffering total permanent disability.
Phillip said there had been cases of false claims but the situation is under control in Sarawak.
He revealed one such case in Sibu recently whereby an employee created an incident, which Socso found to be a fraud. The accused was sentenced to a year in jail, one stroke of the rotan, and a fine.
“Cheating like this is very serious. Don’t try it at home or anywhere. For the case I just mentioned, the culprit created a false accident report. He fell at home and suffered a fracture but claimed it happened at work.
“When we checked, we found discrepancies in the information obtained. We have an anti-fraud department and the officers are well trained to investigate any suspicious cases.”
Phillip said employees who had stopped contributing to Socso might still be covered if they fulfilled certain conditions – a fact unnoticed by many.
“People can always visit Socso office to find out. An employee who was an active Socso contributor but had stopped working might come under the Invalidity Pension Scheme.
“This is for those who could be suffering from a morbid condition or cancer, tumour, diabetes, and similar diseases. They might qualify for medical assistance from Socso. Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis, especially for those below 60 years old.”
Invalidity Pension is payable until death of the recipient but could be continued by the spouse under the Survivors’ Pension, he added.