Extended COVID-19 TERS relief

After much anticipation, the Minister of Labour and Employment has now gazetted Directions on the extension of the COVID-19 TERS benefits. Whilst dated 26 February 2021, the Directions were gazetted on 3 March 2021.

4 Mar 2021 4 min read Employment Law Alert Article

At a glance

  • The Minister of Labour and Employment has gazetted Directions on the extension of COVID-19 TERS benefits, effective from 16 October 2020 until 15 March 2021.
  • Eligible employees include those whose employers are unable to operate due to regulations, employees with comorbidities or at higher risk due to age, and employees in quarantine or isolation.
  • The benefits will be calculated according to the Unemployment Insurance Act, with a minimum of R3,500. Employees in sectors not mentioned in the list can receive reduced work time benefits. The directives have retrospective effect and it is unclear what will happen after 15 March 2021.

These Directions follow the publication of a series of alerts CDH has published on the extended TERS benefits. Our most recent alert was issued on 3 March 2021, and this alert should be read with the aforesaid alert.

In terms of the Directions, the following categories of employees may claim:

  1. Those employees whose employers are not permitted to commence operations, either partially or in full, in terms of the Regulations published by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in December 2020. These sectors, 24 in total, are listed below.Employment Law Alert 4 March 2021_TABLE[1]
  2. Employees, in any sector (not limited by the sectors set out above), with comorbidities or any other condition that may place the employee at a higher risk of complications than other employees if infected with COVID-19.
  3. Employees, in any sector (not limited by the sectors set out above), over the age of 60 years who are at a higher risk of complications or death, if infected.

    3.1     As proof that it is unable to make alternative arrangements for employees with comorbidities and employees over the age of 60 to work from home, an employer that employs:

    3.1.1     fifty or more employees, must provide a report from a certified occupational health and safety officer that the employees are not able to be reasonably accommodated setting out the reasons in full;
    3.1.2     less than 50 employees must provide a report from a certified health and safety officer or provide an affidavit deposed to by the owner or senior manager setting out the reasons in full.
  4. Employers who are unable to make use of the services of their employees, either fully or partially, because of operational requirements based on the economic, technological, structural or similar needs due to compliance with the Regulations made in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 or directions made under regulation 4(10) of those Regulations in particular, the need to limit the number of employees at the workplace through rostering, staggering of working hours, short time, and the introduction of a shift system.
  5. Employees, in any sector, who went into quarantine or isolation in terms of an Occupational Health Safety Direction or another direction issued by the Minister of Health following a high risk-contact. These employees need not exhaust sick leave in terms of section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997(BCEA) before claiming this benefit. Affidavits to prove qualification for this benefit must be submitted.

    5.1     In order to prove that an employee in quarantine or isolation is entitled to the benefit, the employer and the employee must each submit an affidavit attested to by both parties, stating that the employee had a high-risk contact and attaching such supporting documents as may be prescribed by the Fund.

Calculation of Benefits

Qualifying employees will receive a benefit that is calculated in terms of section 13(1) of the Unemployment Insurance Act 63 of 2001 (UIA).

After calculations, if the benefit (together with any other remunerations) falls below R3,500, the benefit will be increased to ensure that an employee receives a minimum of R3,500.

Reduced Work Time

Employees from sectors not mentioned in the list, but whose employers are unable to make use of their services either fully or partially due to compliance with Regulations shall be entitled to a reduced work time benefit in accordance with the illness benefits as stated in section 12(1)(b) of the UIA. This benefit is subject to the availability of sufficient credits and will be calculated according to the Income Replacement Rate and sliding scale as provided for in the UIA.

Employers are encouraged to disclose any remuneration received for work performed by the employee when applying for the benefit. Upon this disclosure, employers are entitled to supplement the amount received from the fund with the remuneration received for work performed by the employee. However, the benefit from the fund and the supplement from the employer, when combined, should not exceed 100% of the remuneration that the employee would ordinarily receive for working during that period.

Claims can only be made by employees who are contributors for purposes of the UIA and where employers have declared and paid their Unemployment Insurance to the Fund. The benefit (with the exception of the reduced work time – illness benefit) shall be de-linked from the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s normal benefits and provisions thereto.

These directives have a retrospective effect commencing from 16 October 2020 and will remain in operation until 15 March 2021. What happens after 15 March 2021, where it is anticipated that the lockdown continues further into 2021, is not as yet clear.

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