Companies and employees across South Africa are trying their best to grapple with the impact of the national lockdown on income streams. Understandably, the uncertainty of these unprecedented times has people and businesses going into full survival mode. “What do we do?” and “who do we turn to?” are just two of the questions running through the minds of everyone navigating the lockdown. But if you think you’ve hit a dead-end, LAW FOR ALL is here to show you the path to options and alternatives; mainly, how employees can get through this by claiming UIF and TERS benefits during the COVID-19 crisis.
The legal context: what we are working with?
In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act protects the rights of employers and workers. The Department of Employment and Labour recently issued a directive to clarify which types of leave the law recognises and to confirm that companies are legally allowed to ask employees to take annual leave during the lockdown. The Department of Labour still urges employers to pay employees in full. But, if the COVID-19 outbreak has made this impossible, there are options, alternatives and benefits to look into. Let’s unpack this more.
Options and alternatives: rethinking working arrangements.
Of course, it isn’t necessarily possible for companies to pay their staff at this time. Employers might need to put their thinking caps on and come up with an alternative plan for their employees. This can include potential temporary lay-offs, where employees won’t receive income during the lockdown but haven’t lost their job; or reduced working hours, where workers won’t get their full salaries, but still some form of income.
What if employers have no choice but to let employees go? Applying for UIF benefits.
In the regrettable event that an employer cannot keep an employee on the payroll because of the impact of the national lockdown, there are still ways in which companies can help employees to get financial assistance:
Option 1: Assist with an employee’s Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) application.
Employers should assist employees in claiming benefits from the UIF, and submitting the following claim documents online:
- UI 19 & UI 2.7 (to be completed by the employer)
- Application Form UI 2.1
- UI 2.8 (to be completed by the bank)
- A confirmation letter from the employer (confirming that the employee has been temporarily laid-off or that working hours are reduced due to COVID-19)
Option 2: Claim from the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS)
The Government has also created an alternative to each person applying for UIF. The Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) pays employees when the employers have to stop their operations due to COVID-19 and temporarily lay-off employees. The scheme allows employers who face financial difficulties to continue paying their employers even when the business is not running, for up to 3 months.
Employers should submit the following documents and apply by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org :
- Proof of UIF registration
- Letter of Authority (on company letterhead authorising a person to apply on behalf of the employer)
- Signed Memorandum of Agreement (signed by the employer and UIF)
- Three-months payroll information
- Confirmation of bank details (supported by bank statements)
The employer will receive an automated response indicating the process and further requirements.
Do note: claims cannot be submitted for both UIF and TERS benefits.
What if an employer refuses to consider filing a TERS claim?
If an employer does not want to look into this option, the deputy director of communications at The Department of Labour said: “Employees can report to us as well if their employer is not applying on their behalf so we can intervene”. Simply do so by emailing email@example.com and following the steps set out in the automated reply.
How is the TERS benefit amount calculated?
The benefit is capped at R17 712 and calculated in terms of the UIF income replacement rate sliding scale (38% for higher earners and 60% for lower earners). The amount of compensation that you can claim from the UIF depends on how long you have been working for as well as how much you earn. The number ranges from 38% to 60% of the wages that you received while you were employed. The maximum amount payable is R6 731, calculated on a salary of R17 712. The lowest amount payable can’t be less than the minimum wage.
Lockdown aside, what happens if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?
Of course, if an employee is directly affected by COVID-19, it’s a slightly different story. If the employee contracted the virus while performing work duties, they are entitled to sick leave, according to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA). They will then be able to claim from the Compensation Fund. For more info on this, read up on Compensation for Workers That Contract COVID-19 While on Duty. If the employee falls ill while off duty, they will be entitled to the usual sick leave.
What about precautionary quarantine?
If an employer and worker agree to place the employee under a precautionary 14-day quarantine, illness benefits can be claimed from the UIF. Proof of this agreement between the employer and employee will be required.
Legal advice and guidance: how do I get in touch with LAW FOR ALL?
Our legal professionals can talk you through the entire process of claiming UIF and TERS benefits! What’s more, we are more than happy to help you submit the documents, too. When we say we are in your corner, we mean it!
We’re keeping the law working for you during the national lockdown. Thanks to technology, we still provide legal help during the COVID-19 outbreak. To get in touch with LAW FOR ALL:
- Send an Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- SMS your ‘name’ to 30838.