Themba writes: Our employer is an NGO that doesn’t subsidise the medical cover of employees yet it is compulsory to have medical cover according to the employment contract, unless the employee is dependent of someone else’s cover like the spouse. The employer deals with only one medical aid provider without other options. Does the employer have a right to compel employees to join the medical scheme that it does not subsidise?
A specialist labour lawyer advises as follows:
A substantial portion of employers, particularly corporate employers, include compulsory medical schemes as part of their employment package with employees. An employer is entitled to insist on employees joining ‘employer’ medical schemes under the following scenarios:
- If joining the medical aid scheme is part of the terms of service (ie, if it’s in the employment contract, regardless of whether or not an employer actually subsidises it);
- If an employer in fact provides a subsidy to the medical scheme, or if the medical scheme is part of the costs to an employer (included in the gross salary).
If neither of the above scenarios is applicable, it would be unfair for an employer to insist on compulsory membership to a medical scheme, and an employee is therefore under no obligation to become a member of such scheme. In your case, however, your employer has met the first criterion by including it in the employment contract.
Fair labour practice?
Notwithstanding your obligation to become a member of the company’s chosen medical scheme, you could challenge the fact that a specific medical scheme is required without any contribution or subsidy by your employer. You are entitled to challenge such a term of service on the grounds of, among others, unfairness, and perhaps even its constitutionality. The right to fair labour practice is enshrined in our Constitution.
Your best bet is probably to seek further advice from a labour law expert.