Dear CEO Members
The departmental spokesperson for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Teboho Thejane indicated that on the 16th April 2020, the Unemployment Insurance Fund paid the first batch of COVID 19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) benefits to employers on behalf of workers.
He further mentioned that the COVID 19 TERS benefits were necessitated by the global breakout of the Coronavirus, resulting in the shutting down of economies due to the introduction of stringent nationwide lockdown measures in a bid to contain the spread of the virus in South Africa and most countries. Please note that the spokesperson stated that the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) had experienced a remarkable spike in the number of applications resulting from loss of income and employment due to trading restrictions.
Tebogo Thejane further stated that the Unemployment Insurance Fund had to continually honour its obligation regarding ordinary monthly benefits, however, the Department found itself under tremendous pressure to meet the two competing interests as this had placed both capacity and financial burden on the Fund. To date, the UIF has paid in excess of 15 billion rands to beneficiaries, marking a historic first in terms of a lump sum paid out by the Fund within five weeks. Please note that he mentioned that the COVID 19 TERS application for May 2020 would be opened on the 26th May 2020 at midnight.
Following that, the Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi has commended the urgency and seriousness with which the Department and the UIF in particular, have responded to the enormous challenge presented by the COVID 19 pandemic breakout.
The Minister further stated that the “Money paid out to beneficiaries thus far had a direct impact on 3 million workers, ensuring that livelihoods are protected against the devastating effects of COVID 19. The TERS benefit is one of many social protection schemes introduced by the government in direct response to the economic effects of the pandemic. While the easing of the nationwide lockdown regulations to alert level 3 would see the economy gradually reopening, the negative impact of COVID 19 would continue to be with us for the foreseeable future. We expect an increase in labour-related disputes due to retrenchments and termination of employment as employers try to stay afloat.”
The Minister mentioned that Department’s delegation would on the 28th May 2020 be attending a meeting at NEDLAC where social partners will look at the UIF’s technical and financial capacity to continue to pay out TERS benefits in the long run. The Minister said that the Department needs to guarantee the sustainability of funds beyond June 2020, and Social partners will also look at other issues relating to their mandates and how they can collectively respond to the various challenges within the context of the move to alert level 3.
In conclusion, Minister Thulas Nxesi is encouraging employers to consult broadly when it comes to major decisions with an impact on job security such as intentions to lay-off workers and retrenchments must be the last resort out of all the available remedies regarding the challenges we are currently facing as a country. He requests employers to fully cooperate with labour inspectors who will continue to enforce workplace regulations to protect the welfare of workers.
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CEO Collective Bargaining Team