On 17 February 2021, the South African Department of Employment and Labour announced that the relevant NEDLAC partners have endorsed proposals tabled by the UIF for the extension of the COVID-19 TERS. These proposals relate to how the TERS will be extended to sectors still affected by lockdown regulations as well as employees with comorbidities and those over 60-years old who cannot be reasonably accommodated at work.

This announcement was made pursuant to President Ramaphosa's statement at the State of the Nation Address on 11 February 2021 that the TERS benefit would be extended from 16 October 2020 until 15 March 2021 for those sectors that have not been able to operate to full capacity including hospitality, liquor and tourism.

While we anticipate that further details and a Directive outlining the conditions of the TERS extension will be gazetted soon, what employers should know and prepare for, for the time being, is that the NEDLAC social partners have agreed to two payment iterations in the new extension. The first will be for the period between 16 October 2020 to 31 December 2020, and the second from 1 January 2021 to 15 March 2021. The UIF has already started with systems configuration to accommodate the processing and payments for the first payment iteration, and aims to open the system for the processing of these applications by the first week of March 2021.

The NEDLAC partners have also welcomed proposals by the UIF on how employees who have had to self-isolate or quarantine can claim income replacement, and the nation has been assured that "the social partners, working with the UIF, will ensure that sub-sectors and other business activities in certain value chains will be included in the list."

The UIF will announce once the system is open for applications and will provide easy aid guides and frequently asked questions to assist applicants with the application process.

While the anticipated scope of the TERS extension is welcomed, it will no doubt be limited. As the impact of COVID-19 persists, employers are reminded to explore other alternatives and benefits for their qualifying employees such as the short-time/reduced work time benefit, other UIF benefits including the illness benefit and the CCMA TERS scheme, where applicable.

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