Last night, Monday 23 March 2020, marked the very first three-week shut-down (26 March 2020 – 16 April 2020) experience for most, if not all, of us. The announcement, even though expected, still filled most of us with fear and/or anxiety.
Herewith an excerpt from the announcement made by our honourable State President, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa: “we are going to support people whose livelihoods will be affected. We are in consultation on a proposal for a special dispensation for companies that are in distress because of COVID-19. Through these proposal employees will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and avoid retrenchment. Any employee who falls ill through exposure at their workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund. Commercial banks have been exempted from provisions of the Competition Act to enable them to develop common approaches to debt relief and other necessary measures. We have met with all the major banks and expect that most banks will put measures in place within the next few days. Many large companies that are currently closed have accepted their responsibility to pay workers affected. We call on larger businesses in particular to take care of their workers during this period. In the event that it becomes necessary, we will utilize the reserves within the UIF system to extend support to those workers in SMEs and other vulnerable firms who are faced with loss of income and whose companies are unable to provide support. Details of these will be made available within the next few days.”
Temporary Employee Relief Scheme
Numerous enquiries were, and still are, received from members seeking guidance in this unknown circumstances we find ourselves in. Enquiries range from “is this leave with pay; leave without pay; no-work-no pay; leave with average commission?”
The reality is that the choice to shut down is not that of the Employer and is not that of the Employee. This is unknown territory with little to no precedents set in the past. Guidance can however be taken from the newly drafted “Easy Aid Guide for Employers” providing employers with a “National Disaster Benefit” that will compensate employees during this period.
Employers sending their employees home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic termed as a temporary layoff, can apply for the “National Disaster Benefit” from UIF. Employees will be compensated at a flat rate equal to R3 500, currently the national minimum wage, for the duration of the shut down or for a maximum of three months, whichever is the shortest. After three months the normal basic UIF benefits will be reinstated.
Illness Benefits will apply through the Unemployment Insurance Fund when employees have been quarantined for 14 days, subject to a letter from the Employer confirming agreed “Special Leave” for the fourteen days.
It was further confirmed that if an employee contracted the COVID 19 at their place of work, compensation will be granted by the Compensation Commissioner. The same processes as with any other injury on duty must be followed.
Employees can engage with their Employers to grant them paid leave for this period subject to the number of leave days available. Members earning commission may negotiate with their Employer for paid leave and average commission subject to the number of leave days available.
In a Nutshell – Desperate times calls for desperate measures! There is compensation available and nothing stops you from negotiating paid leave with your employer.
Remember MISA is just a phone call away!