Some companies don’t offer their employees medical aid as an added benefit; however, it could go a long way to benefiting employees with disabilities – especially as medical aid funds become less affordable
Many employers offer wellness programmes and resources for their employees. These resources are meant to enhance the performance of their employees. They can also assist people with disabilities, but often the programmes offered by employers are not sufficient. Employers should consider offering their employees with disabilities a comprehensive medical aid plan.
There are certain expense categories that medical aids generally cover, which benefit people with disabilities. These include plans that cover medical equipment or assistive devices such as a wheelchair, a hearing aid and the services of allied therapists. With the correct wheelchair, for example, an employee will be more mobile around the workplace and have better posture at their desk. The employee will thus be less likely to contract pressure sores, which could impact their attendance. A good hearing aid will improve an employee’s communication, while an allied therapist could assist an employee with using, assessing and monitoring the effectiveness of reasonable accommodation as well as equip them to be more productive in the workplace.
A comprehensive medical aid would partially or fully cover these types of expenses. The medical aid contributions are also tax deductible for the company. Typically, the monthly cost of medical aid is upward of R4 000; the higher the monthly premium, the greater the benefit.
Employees with disabilities often incur many more medical expenses. A wheelchair user, for example, might only earn R360 000 per annum, but pays R72 000 in medical aid contributions; buys a wheelchair for R60 000; goes for physio therapy twice a month, which amounts to R24 000; has 12 occupational therapy sessions costing R12 000; and spends about R24 000 on chronic medication such as insulin.
This excludes other medical expenses such as general doctor or specialist visits, which could easily amount to R30 000 a year. The total medical aid costs amount to R150 000. A medical aid of R72 000 thus contributes considerably towards ensuring the employee is able to afford their medical expenses.
The employee is better equipped to perform at work and the employer faces less downtime or lost productivity. Medical aid for employees with disabilities is undeniably beneficial to both parties. The employee’s salary package should therefore be structured accordingly.
Rustim Ariefdien is a disability expert extraordinaire, who assists businesses to “let the Ability of disAbility enAble their profitAbility” through BBBEE, skills development, employment equity and socio-economic development. He ensures that businesses are able to maximise their points on the BBBEE scorecard and become compliant with legislative requirements as stipulated in the Employment Equity and Skills Development Acts. His purpose is the economic empowerment of persons with disability in Africa. As a person with a disability himself, he has extensive experience in the development and empowerment of persons with disability.