Workers affected by unrest will be compensated, but it won't be a free for all: Nxesi

28 July 2021 - 19:30 By nonkululeko njilo
The department of employment and labour has committed to helping thousands of employers and employees hit by the recent unrest and looting in parts of SA.
The department of employment and labour has committed to helping thousands of employers and employees hit by the recent unrest and looting in parts of SA.
Image: GCIS

The employment and labour department has committed to helping thousands of employers and employees hit hard by the recent unrest and looting in parts of SA.

More than 75,000 have been identified so far in both Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, according to minister Thulas Nxesi. Thousands of jobs and billions of rand were lost during the unrest, which also claimed the lives of more than 300 people.

Addressing journalists on Wednesday, Nxesi said his department had since begun drafting a special directive dealing with the affected workers.

“The Unemployment Insurance Fund has a basket of benefits that can serve as intervention mechanisms to the affected workers and companies as a result of the unrest. It should be mentioned upfront that there is now no benefit quite suitable for the current situation, and Covid-19 TERS cannot be applicable as it was established as an intervention for a disaster situation.

I should emphasise that it will not be a free for all, the criteria to determine who qualifies is 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
Thulas Nxesi 

“Therefore, the current benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act are the only interventions available to cover the affected workers. However, to ensure that some of the basic tenets of the act are not violated, the department is going to draft a special directive dealing with the affected workers in the two provinces,” he said. 

The directive is, among other things, expected to make provision for workers who would normally not qualify for these benefits due to non-compliance with the act to be able to access the benefits.  

“However, I should emphasise that it will not be a free for all. The criteria to determine who qualifies is 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,” he said.   

The department's director-general, Thobile Lamati, did not specify how much has been set aside other than say it would come from the R5.3bn which had been allocated to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa as an extension of TERS.  

Nxesi said he had since instructed his department to gather information on the affected businesses and perform an analysis of the businesses that will  afford to carry their employee’s salaries during this period.  

“On the basis of this analysis we shall be able to indicate the benefit calculation that we will follow; whether it is a flat rate across the board, an income replacement rate, or combination of the two — depending on the nature of the application,” he said. 

Details pertaining to who will qualify for assistance,  payment structure, the application process and the duration of the payment period will be outlined in the direction according to the department. 

“We are mindful of the urgency of the matter, therefore we commit to expediting the process of drafting and approval of the directive. The UIF already has a system in place that will help fast-track the payments.”

Though employers were set to play a key role in the application process, Nxesi assured the country that the benefit would be paid directly into the account of the employee. This was to ensure immediate assistance and reduce the risk of possible fraud.

Distressed businesses after the unrest were  urged to apply for the normal Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) which is aimed at helping companies temporarily in distress, but with a plan in place to turn the business around within 6-12 months. The applications are made through the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). 

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