By SHAUN BERGOVER
What is UIF?
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (“The Fund”) is established by the Unemployment Insurance Act 63 of 2001 and the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act 10 of 2016. The Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act 4 of 2002 provides for the payment and collection of contributions to the Fund. Every registered employee contributes 1% of his or her salary and the employer contributes 1%. The combined 2% gets paid over to the Fund. The aim of the Fund is to provide short-term relief to employees when they become unemployed or are unable to work because of illness, maternity or adoption leave, and also to provide relief to the dependents of a contributor who has died.
There are five different types of benefits payable by the Fund:
- Unemployment benefits;
- Illness benefits;
- Maternity benefits;
- Adoption benefits;
- Dependents’ benefits.
These benefits are for employees who lose their jobs because they have been dismissed, retrenched or their contracts have expired. If an employee resigns from their job then they will not qualify for benefits unless the employee can prove it was a constructive dismissal. To qualify for unemployment benefits, the employee must have been contributing to the Fund and money must have been deducted from his or her salary for unemployment insurance benefits every month. The employee must have been dismissed or their contract ended and they did not resign (unless they can prove it was constructive dismissal). Further information can be obtained from the employee’s local Labour Centre.
Employees can claim illness benefits if they are off work because of illness for more than two weeks. Benefits are paid from the date on which the employee stopped working because of illness.
To qualify for illness benefits, the employee must have been contributing to the Fund and money must have been deducted from his or her salary every month. In addition, the employee must have been sick for more than 14 days. If the employee has been paid by the employer during the period of illness, then the benefit paid by the Fund will be the difference between what the employer paid and the benefit that the employee would have been entitled to had s/he not fallen ill. Further requirements can be obtained from the employee’s local Labour Centre.
Maternity benefits can be paid to an employee who is pregnant. According to section 25 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, a pregnant woman can take maternity leave at any time from four weeks before the expected date of birth, and she may not return to work for six weeks after the birth.
If an employee has applied for maternity benefits, this does not affect her right to claim unemployment benefits if she also loses employment. To qualify for maternity benefits, the employee must have been contributing to the Fund and money must have been deducted from her salary for UIF every month. The claim must be made no later than eight weeks before child birth or within six months after the birth of the child. Further requirements can be obtained from the employee’s local Labour Centre.
On 1 January 2020 new amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act came into effect. These amendments now give leave to parents who do not qualify for maternity leave – this is known as ‘parental leave’. As a result, the UIF Act has also been amended and extends to these parents, including fathers. The UIF Act pays unemployment insurance benefits up to 10 days which is in line with the BCEA.
A person who legally adopts a child less than 2 years old and who leaves work to take care of that child can apply for adoption benefits from the Fund from the date of adoption – this will usually be the date a court has granted the order for adoption. Only one of the adoptive parents can apply for the benefit. To qualify for adoption benefits, the employee must have been contributing to the Fund and money must have been deducted from his or her salary for UIF every month. The child must be adopted in terms of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. Further requirements can be obtained from the employee’s local Labour Centre.
If an employee passes away while employed, his/her dependents can claim benefits from
the Fund. A dependent can be:
- The deceased employee’s spouse; or
- The deceased employee’s child under 18 years of age.
To qualify for dependents’ benefits the employee must have been contributing to the Fund and money must have been deducted from his or her salary for UIF every month. Further requirements can be obtained from the employee’s local Labour Centre.
Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS)
In addition to the above UIF benefits, a further benefit has been set up by the Department of Labour called the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). All employers and employees who are registered with the Department of Employment & Labour can apply for this relief. The scheme applies to employers who cannot pay their workers and employees who will not get paid during the period of the lockdown. This also applies to employees who have been forced to take leave as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The Department’s UIF call centre toll-free number is 0800 030 007. The Department encourages companies to apply on behalf of their employees by visiting http://uifecc.labour.gov.za/covid19. The Department has advised that the processing time is 10 days once a complete application has been submitted.
Over and above the TERS benefit, the Department continues to pay out the normal UIF benefits during the lockdown period.
How do you claim UIF benefits?
There are different forms that need to be completed for each type of benefit. An application must be made at the Labour Centre closest to the employee. The person must also register as a job seeker and must be available to work. An unemployment register is signed every four weeks to confirm that the person is still unemployed.
One of the most important forms that needs to be completed is the employer’s declaration (UI-19). A copy can be requested from the employer who will normally submit the form directly to the Department of Labour. Another important form is the bank account confirmation (UI-2.8) which is completed by the bank if the employee wishes to have their UIF benefits paid into their bank account. Different forms need to be completed for maternity, illness, adoption and dependent benefits. All the necessary forms and further information can be obtained from the Labour Centre closest to the employee.
NB: During the lockdown period, the Department of Employment & Labour’s Labour Centres are closed. The Department will, however, send out SMSes to people who are already receiving UIF payments for them to confirm their unemployment status and banking details. Individuals who would like to make new applications are advised to contact the call centre on 080 003 0007.