The Department of Employment and Labour has ramped up its payment of COVID-19 benefits to South Africa’s workers and businesses as part of the Temporary Employer and Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) to prevent further disruption for workers during the lockdown.
As a result - the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has disbursed an additional R92-million to more than 37,000 companies and 790,150 workers affected by the national lockdown.
This means that more than R1.8 billion has been paid out since the 16th of April.
This is excluding the payments made for ordinary benefits (such as maternity and retrenchments) which totalled R804 million across the nine provinces since the beginning of April. Employment and Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi says that the department continues to process claims as they are submitted.
"The UIF is working round the clock to meet the extraordinary volumes of requests for assistance presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 benefit scheme will provide much-needed relief to employees who have been laid off work or unable to earn an income due to COVID-19," said Minister Nxesi in a media statement.
He went on to admit that the system is under extreme pressure and says that it was not designed to accommodate such high volumes of requests as we are experiencing during the lockdown. Furthermore, the road and freight bargaining council has paid out more than R150 million of its funds to 13 thousand employees but is in the process of reclaiming the funds from the UIF.
Nxesi says that he encourages businesses that are capable of paying their workers, to do so and claim the funds back from the fund afterwards. As part of being more responsive to claimants, the UIF call centre which initially had 75 agents, has increased its capacity and now has 200 agents manning the toll-free number (0800 030 007).
More call centre agents will be added should the need arise.