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Staff affected by the COVID-19 lockdown regulations since March 2021 will once again be able to claim from the COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS).
This comes after Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi signed the direction on Friday, 16 July 2021, making it possible for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to implement the third extension of the TERS benefit.
Moreover, in a statement, the Employment and Labour Ministry said, “This means that the UIF will open the system for applications from 19 July 2021 and commence payments from 26 July 2021.” However, the Department explains there is one primary condition—payments will be made directly to workers’ bank accounts and not through their employers, as before. But it is important to note; employers would still be expected to claim on their behalf.
This third phase will bring relief for the following categories of workers:
- Workers who have not been able to work from 16 March 2021, due to Level 1, 2 and 3 restrictions preventing gatherings of a certain number of people – such as in the entertainment industry;
- Workers who were and or are still impacted upon by the Level 4 restrictions, which commenced on 28 June 2021; and
- Workers who have not been able to work because they are over 60 or have co-morbidities and have not been able to work in the period and those who have had to isolate or go into quarantine. Noting, the period ends on 25 July 2021.
The direction follows the announcement by Minister Nxesi three weeks ago that the Department intended on extending benefits to sectors affected by Adjusted Alert Level 4 restrictions.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 11 July 2021 that the UIF had embarked on negotiations with NEDLAC social partners to address the difficulties faced by employees who lost income under level 4 restrictions.
After intense deliberations with social partners at Nedlac, the Ministry said the UIF had agreed to open the window for phase 3 of COVID-19 TERS to cover the period between 16 March 2021 and 25 July 2021.
The application process and the information or documents required are the same as with the previous extensions, except in respect of the processing of payments directly into the employees’ accounts.
Acting UIF Commissioner Mzie Yawa added, “It is, therefore, crucial for employers to provide valid and accurate details of their employees, including identity document numbers and valid bank accounts.”
While paying directly into employees’ bank account remains the most preferred payment mode, the UIF said it was mindful of instances where this may be difficult.
“In such instances and upon provision of sufficient proof by the employer, funds may be paid into the employer’s account at the UIF’s discretion. We have learnt the lesson from the previous phases that some unscrupulous employers did not advance the funds to their employees and it is for that reason that we have opted for this mode of payment,” said Yawa.
As a result of the non-payment of workers, it was explained that the UIF and the entire Department were inundated with many complaints, as workers could see in the system that funds had been released but had not been paid by their employers who kept the COVID TERS funds for themselves.
Qualifying sectors for Phase 3 of the COVID TERS are identified in Annexure A, including venues hosting auctions, professional sports, where social events are held, and venues hosting concerts and live performances.
Additionally, Annexure B contains all sectors affected by Level 4 lockdown restrictions, including restaurants, the liquor industry, hospitality and tourism, and any industries and business establishments that form part of these value chains.
Other operational details will be contained in a letter to be sent directly to employers, and the letter together with directives will be available on both the TERS portal (www.uifecc.labour.gov.za) and the Employment and Labour website (www.labour.gov.za )
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