South Africa’s employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi has called on employers registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to apply for Covid-19 benefits on behalf of their employees.
The fund gives short-term relief to South African workers when they become unemployed or are unable to work because of maternity, adoption leave or illness. It also provides relief to the dependants of a deceased contributor.
As part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the department has issued a directive for relief to be provided to contributors who have lost income or have been required to take annual leave during a five week national lockdown the government enforced to try and reduce new transmissions of the coronavirus fast spreading around the world after being first reported in China last December.
To date, the UIF has received just over 55,268 applications from employers representing just above 1.6 million employees. In total, the fund has over 1.8 million employers registered on its database representing more than eight million workers, the labour department said.
The UIF has processed 37,673 employer applications, meaning 606,462 employees will receive their benefit. About 9,938 applications were not processed due to errors which the relevant companies have been notified to rectify.
Payouts made since April 16 amount to R1.1 billion.
“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,” Nxesi said.
With the UIF system under pressure due to a higher number of applications related to Covid-19, he said the labour department was talking to other public entities and the private sector to build additional capacity.
“Our system was not designed to accommodate the increased volumes of requests that we are witnessing due to the Covid-19,” Nxesi said.