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Workers can now claim Covid-19 cash directly from the UIF – no need to wait for employers

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From Business Insider:

  • New regulations allow employees to apply directly to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for special coronavirus benefits.
  • In the past, applications could only be made by employers. 
  • The UIF is also paying the so-called TERS benefits directly into employees’ accounts.

Amid frustration that some companies are not applying for special coronavirus benefits for their staff, new regulations allow employees to directly request the money from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

Previously, only companies could apply for so-called Covid-19 Temporary Relief (TERS) payments. They would receive the money, and then pay their employees.

Workers who are put on leave, have been laid off temporarily, or whose employers can’t afford to pay their full salaries are entitled to the payouts. The maximum a worker will get is R6,730 a month (if you earn more than R17,700) – while the minimum amount is R3,500. The average amount paid out so far is R5,000.

Some 2.3 million employees have received R12.7 billion to date.

But labour minister Thulas Nxesi has repeatedly stated that many distressed companies are not applying for the TERS money, which could benefit their employees. Nxesi recently estimated that companies representing 220,000 employees did not apply yet. 

Thanks to the new regulations, employees can now apply directly to the UIF – provided their employer has not applied for the TERS money (or in the absence of an arrangement between the UIF and the bargaining council).

It has not yet been confirmed how individual workers can apply – the current TERS application platform only accommodates companies and bargaining councils.

Another big change is that the UIF is now paying money straight into some employees’ bank accounts. Previously, all TERS money would be paid to the employer, who would then have to pay the money to employees.

This would shorten the waiting period for recipients, says Nxesi.

It will also help employers. The UIF pays lumpsum amounts into company accounts, and some have complained that they did not receive any guidance from the UIF about how the money should be split among the employees. Also, the amounts they received from the UIF do not add up to their own calculations – and they are uncertain about how much to pay each worker.

Nxesi says payments are now made within 24 to 48 hours after applications are cleared. The UIF’s call centre has been expanded, with 500 agents who are handling up to 70 000 calls per day.

“We are now at a stage where 70 percent of those calls are attended to, on average, within three minutes. Again, we have listened to the anguished calls and we are making sure that our machinery is smooth and seamless to the extent possible”, said Nxesi in a statement.