Covid-19 TERS claims now being processed

The government starts processing new TERS claims after the relief measures were extended.

Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi has signed the updated Covid TERS directive, authorising the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to process claims for the new Covid TERS extension.

The Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) was introduced to support workers whose services would not be used during lockdown because only certain industry sectors and workers were deemed as essential.

In his February state of the nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced further support to sectors that are unable to operate due to lockdown measures.

After extensive discussions between the UIF and Nedlac social partners, it was agreed that the extension should cover businesses or establishments in sectors hardest hit by lockdown such as tourism, liquor, hospitality, conferencing events and other business activities still affected in related value chains.

Acting UIF commissioner Marsha Bronkhorst says, “The social partners impressed on us that we need to carefully consider other business activities that get indirectly impacted if the main business they render a service to is not operational. For example, a bottling supplier in the liquor industry gets affected if production is stopped or reduced by the alcohol manufacturer, and so does the wine or grain farmer who supplies raw material to the manufacturer. So, the invaluable input from social partners has assisted in drawing up the comprehensive list that is attached as an annexure to the direction.”

Bronkhorst said that under the directive, Covid-19 TERS payments will only be valid for employees registered with the fund as a contributor. Additionally, they must fall under identified sectors or business establishments and have been unable to operate normally.

The benefit will also cover vulnerable employees who have comorbidities, or who are 60 or older and cannot be safely accommodated at work, and those who must isolate or quarantine to prevent infections, regardless of the sector they work in.

Workers who are affected by short-time, shift rotations, temporary layoff, and other operational requirements related to current economic conditions, but who do not work in the specified sectors, will be entitled to claim relief under section 12 (1B) of the UI Act.

The directive allows the benefit calculated to be paid out in full, providing that when added to what the employee earned for work performed in the period, it does not exceed their normal earnings.

The fund will follow two payment iterations for the extension period, with the first being from 16 October to 31 December 2020, and the second from 1 January to 15 March 2021.

The UIF  said it has already opened the online application system to start processing claims for the first payment iteration, with guidelines on the application process available on the Department of Employment and Labour website.