In this alert, we broadly outline the recent developments concerning the COVID-19 TERS benefit, which has been extended for certain employees, and which benefit will now be paid directly to employees.
On Thursday, 15 July 2021, the Minister of Employment and Labour, issued a new directive extending the UIF COVID-19 TERS Benefits ("Benefit") to certain categories of employees. This is a welcome development particularly in light of recent events in South Africa which have highlighted the devastating effect that the closure of certain sectors of the economy can have on South Africa's workforce.
The directive stipulates that, as a default, the Benefit will be paid directly into an employee's bank account and not to the employer. However, the directive does allow, on good cause shown, for the benefit to be paid to an employer, for the employer to pay to the qualifying employee, as was previously the case. This change, according to the Department of Employment and Labour, is due to the number of complaints laid by employees that their employers were keeping the funds that were paid to them and not paying those funds over to the qualifying employees.
The directive outlines five broad category of employee who qualifies for the Benefit. These five categories are employees whose employers:
- were not permitted to commence operations, either partially or in full, on and from 16 March 2021 to 25 July 2021, due to the Lockdown Regulations, who operate in the "sectors" as specified in Annexure A to the directive, either partially or in full. The sectors specified in Annexure A include inter alia venues hosting auctions, venues hosting professional sports, venues where social events are held and venues hosting concerts and live performances, and any industries that forms part of the value chain of these venues/sectors
- were not permitted to commence operations, either partially or in full, on and from 28 June 2021 to 25 July 2021, due to the Lockdown Regulations, who operate in the "sectors" as specified in Annexure B to the directive, either partially or in full. The sectors specified in Annexure B include inter alia restaurants, night clubs, international and domestic air travel, bars, hotels, sale, dispensing and distribution of liquor, and taverns and shebeens, and any industries that forms part of the value chain of these venues/sectors
- are unable to make alternative arrangements for vulnerable employees to work from home or take other appropriate measures, irrespective of whether the employer operates in a sector specified in Annexure A or B to the directive
- are unable to make use of their services either fully or partially because of operational requirements based on the economic, technological, structural or similar needs of the employer caused by compliance with the Lockdown Regulations or directives issued pursuant thereto, in particular the need to limit the number of employees at the workplace through rostering, staggering of working hours, short time, and the introduction of a shift system and who operate in a sector specific in Annexure A or B
- employees whose employers are required to ensure that they (i.e. the employee) remains in isolation or quarantine and above
The directive also provides for a reduced work time benefit. In this regard the directive states that subject to the availability of sufficient credits, contributors whose employers do not operate in the sectors set out in Annexures A and B and whose employers are unable to make use of their services either fully or partially as a result of compliance with the Lockdown Regulations or any directive issued pursuant thereto, shall be entitled to a reduced work time benefit in accordance with section 12(1B) of the Unemployment Insurance Act. The directive also contemplates an employer, in certain circumstances, supplementing this reduced time benefit amount received from the UIF.
The UIF will open the system for application from 19 July 2021 and payments will commence on 26 July 2021. The directive still contemplates an employer applying for the Benefit.
The directive and the Benefit will go a long way in supporting those sectors and those employees who have been so severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and is very welcome development in South Africa's continuing COVID-19 response.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.