Companies affected by unrest can apply for support as soon as next week

Employers affected by the recent unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal will be able to apply for support through the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) as soon as next week. 

About 75 000 employees have been affected by the looting and damage to infrastructure, which could cause a “temporal work stoppage or an outright retrenchment”, said Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.

On Wednesday, Nxesi elaborated on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday about a range of measures the government will implement to provide support for South Africans. 

The monthly social relief distress grant of R350 has been reinstated and will remain in place until March 2022. 

In addition to Covid-19 support, businesses that recorded major damage as a result of the recent unrest, triggered by protests against former president Jacob Zuma’s arrest and jailing, will be eligible to claim support from the UIF.

However, this support does not fall under the Covid-19 temporary employer/employee relief scheme (Ters), Nxesi said, adding that for this reason a special directive dealing with the affected workers in the two provinces would be drafted. 

“The spirit of the directive would be to ensure that workers who would normally not qualify for these benefits due to noncompliance with the [Unemployment Insurance] Act are able to access the benefits,” said Nxesi. Drawing up the directive was a matter of urgency, he added.

Acting UIF commissioner, advocate Mzie Yawa, said labour law specialists had been instructed to produce a draft by no later than Friday. 

“If it goes through in that process we hope applications can start coming in next week. So we really are responding to the urgency of the matter. It’s not going to be months: it’s hours,” Yawa pledged.

Nxesi warned that the department would not stand for any corruption or fraud and will verify figures in a “robust way”. He called on all employers to co-operate with the department and supply the correct statistics of how many employees needed support.  

“I should emphasise that it will not be a free for all; the criteria to determine who qualifies [are] going to be very stringent and payments will not be generous. While it is our desire to pay all affected workers, it should be borne in mind that finance is a limited resource,” Nxesi stressed.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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