Labour Minister says directive is in the works to help employees of looted businesses

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Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi.
Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi.
Felix Dlangamandla
  • Thulas Nxesi said the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Covid-19 temporarily relief was extended with a fund of R5.3 billion.
  • He said the department will draft a directive to help an estimated 75 000 workers who may not qualify for UIF TERS but lost their jobs due to the unrest.
  • Nxesi said data was being compiled on businesses affected by unrest and the department will be able to reveal a benefit calculation in the directive.


Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi says his department will soon develop and issue a directive for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to assist employees who have lost their jobs due to the recent unrest that rocked South Africa.

Nxesi was briefing reporters on Wednesday afternoon following meetings his department had with the National Economic Development and Labour Council. This also comes as the UIF reintroduced the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) earlier this week.

A recent wave of unrest, looting of stores and destruction of businesses, sparked by the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy South African National Defence Force personnel on the ground to support the South African Police Service in restoring order.

The damage has been estimated at some R50 billion in cost to the country's GDP. 

Nxesi said under level 4 of the national lockdown, the UIF Covid-19 TERS was extended with a fund of R5.3 billion, and applications opened on Monday. He said part of the available funds would now go towards assisting employees who lost their jobs due to the unrest.

"Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the UIF has rendered relief to 5.4 million workers with over R61 billion disbursed. A further extension of the TERS benefit assisted 74 000 workers where R703 million was paid out," said Nxesi.

He said the department would draft a directive to ensure that workers who do not qualify for UIF or TERS can access benefits, and this could occur as soon as this week.

"The department is committed to assisting workers affected by events in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. According to our estimates, 75 000 employees have been affected by the destruction in the two provinces. This could lead to temporary layoffs or outright retrenchments," Nxesi said.

However, he said, qualifying criteria would be strict.

"It will not be a free-for-all. The criteria will be stringent, and payment will be based on resources available. While it would be ideal to pay all affected employees, the reality is that funds are limited," said Nxesi.

Nxesi said data were being compiled on businesses affected by unrest and the department will be able to reveal a benefit calculation and the formulation of an intervention in due course. The payment structure, criteria and duration will be outlined in the directive, he said.

"We are mindful of the urgency of the matter. The UIF has a system in place to fast-track payment. Just as is the case with the Covid-19 TERS benefit, we want the employer to play a key role in the process. The benefit will have to be paid directly to the account of the employee," said Nxesi.

Labour and Employment director-general Thobile Lamati said if an employer has concluded risk assessments on the pandemic and vaccination with employees, the department cannot intervene to stop an employer from disciplining or dismissing employees for refusing to be vaccinated.

"When the employers do a risk assessment, they must talk to employees and make them understand the risks in their work and the controls that must be developed with employees.

"The question of whether employers can force employees is difficult as a worker cannot be compelled to take a vaccine when they have not been told about the risks associated with it," said Lamati.

Lamati said the Department of Employment and Labour would not want to entertain the dismissal of a worker for refusing a vaccine as any violation of agreed-upon conditions at work can lead to disciplinary action in the workplace.

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