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COVID-19: Continued TERS relief in South Africa for certain categories of employees and revised reduced work time benefit

4 March 2021
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On 27 November 2020, the Minister of Employment and Labour withdrew the Direction that made provision for the TERS benefit.

In his State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa announced, however, that the TERS benefit would remain available to certain categories of employees for the period from 16 October 2020 to 15 March 2021.

The Extension Direction, signed on 26 February 2021, was published on 3 March, and provides much needed assistance to employees who were particularly hard-hit by the far-reaching restrictions over the summer.

The TERS benefit

The categories of employees who qualify for TERS relief are the following:

  • employees whose employers are not permitted to commence operations, either partially or in full, pursuant to the declaration of the national disaster, and who operate in a sector listed in Annexure A to the Direction (see below);
  • vulnerable employees (i.e. those over the age of 60 and those who suffer from co-morbidities that increase their risk of serious illness if infected with COVID-19) whose employers are not able to implement alternative arrangements to enable them to work from home, or to take special measures to ensure their safety at work;
  • those whose employers are unable to make use of the employees’ services because of operational requirements as a result of the declaration of the national disaster or compliance with the Regulations (such as the need to limit the number of employees at a workplace); and
  • those employees who are required to remain in isolation or quarantine after a high-risk contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 as set out in the Occupational Health & Safety Direction.

Annexure A to the Direction lists the following sectors:

  • cinemas;
  • theaters;
  • casinos;
  • museums;
  • galleries;
  • libraries and archives;
  • gyms and fitness centres;
  • restaurants;
  • venues hosting auctions;
  • venues hosting professional sports;
  • night clubs;
  • swimming pools;
  • bars, taverns and shebeens;
  • public parks;
  • domestic and international air travel;
  • rail, bus services and taxi services;
  • e-hailing services;
  • sale, dispensing and distribution and transportation of liquor;
  • beaches, dams, rivers and lakes;
  • passenger ships;
  • venues where social events are held;
  • venues hosting concerts and live performances;
  • conferencing, dining, entertainment and bar facilities;
  • international sports, arts and cultural events; and
  • any other industries that form part of the value chain of the above as per the discretion of the UIF.

The requirement to fall within one of the sectors listed in Annexure A does not apply to vulnerable employees and those who must be in isolation or quarantine following a high-risk contact.

In order to qualify for the TERS benefit, the employees in the above categories must be contributors towards the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and their employers must have declared them in accordance with the applicable processes and procedures. Undeclared employees and those who have not contributed towards the Fund will not be able to claim.

The principle that the employer may supplement the amount received from the Fund remains, provided that the total amount received by the employee from the Fund and the employer does not exceed 100% of the employee’s normal remuneration; and provided that the employer has declared upfront in the application for the TERS benefit that it will supplement the benefit amount.

These TERS benefits remain de-linked from a contributor’s credits.

Reduced work time benefit

Employees whose employers do not operate in a sector listed in Annexure A and whose employers are unable to make use of their services, either fully or partially, as a result of the declaration of the National State of Disaster or compliance with the Regulations, may claim the reduced work time benefit in accordance with section 12(1B) of the Unemployment Insurance Act.

Receipt of this benefit is dependent on the availability of credits. Thus, employees who do not have sufficient credits available will not be able to claim. In addition, the employees must be contributors towards the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and their employers must have declared them in accordance with the applicable processes and procedures.

The Direction amends the calculation of the reduced time benefit under section 12(1B). The benefit is not calculated with reference to the ‘benefit level’ but by utilizing the income replacement rate (IRR) and sliding scale as provided for in the Unemployment Insurance Act.

Again, the employer is entitled to supplement the amount received from the Fund, provided that the total amount received by the employee does not exceed 100% of her/his normal remuneration, and provided that the employer has declared the intended top-up at the time of application.

Application for benefits

The Direction requires the employer who applies for the benefits to make certain declarations and to provide particular proof dependent on the category of employee and benefit in respect of which the application is made.