Government starts processing new Covid-19 TERS claims in South Africa

Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi has signed the updated Covid TERS directive, paving the way for the Unemployment Insurance Fund to process claims for the new Covid TERS extension.

The Temporary Employer/ Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) was originally introduced to support employees whose services would not be used during lockdown because of the disaster regulations that designated only certain industry sectors and workers as essential.

The new directive follows the extension announcement made by President Ramaphosa in his February state of the nation address to offer further support to sectors that are unable to operate due to lockdown measures.

After much deliberation between the UIF and Nedlac social partners, it was agreed that the extension should cover businesses or establishments in sectors hardest hit by lockdowns such as tourism, liquor, hospitality, conferencing events and other business activities still affected in related value chains.

“The social partners impressed on us that we need to carefully consider other business activities that get indirectly impacted if the main business they render service is not operational.

“For example, a bottling supplier in the liquor industry gets affected if production is stopped or reduced by the alcohol manufacturer, and so does the wine or grain farmer who supplies raw material to the manufacturer.

“So, the invaluable input from social partners has assisted in drawing up the comprehensive list that is attached as an annexure to the direction,” said Marsha Bronkhorst, acting UIF commissioner.

Bronkhorst said that under the directive, Covid TERS payments will only be applicable to employees who are contributors to UIF in terms of the UIF Act.

This means if you are registered with the Fund as a contributor and fall within the identified sectors or business establishments, and have not been able to work normally, you qualify to receive the benefit.

The benefit will also cover vulnerable employees who have comorbidities, or who are 60-years or older and cannot be safely accommodated at work, and those who must isolate or quarantine to prevent infections, regardless of the sector they work in.

Employees who continue to be affected by short-time, shift rotations, temporary layoff, and other operational requirements related to current economic conditions, but who do not work in the specified sectors, will be entitled to claim relief under section 12 (1B) of the UI Act.

To assist employees to maximise the benefits associated with credits used in claiming under 12 (1B), the directive allows for the benefit calculated to be paid out in full (and not as usual to the benefit level), providing that when added to what the employee earned for work performed in the period, it does not exceed their normal earnings.

The fund will follow two payment iterations for the extension period, with the first being from 16 October to 31 December 2020, and the second from 1 January to 15 March 2021.

The UIF said it has already opened the online application system to start processing claims for the first payment iteration.

Guidelines on the application process are available on the Department of Employment and Labour website here.

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