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The unpropitious effects of the COVID19 continue to ripple throughout the economy in South Africa. However, amid these bleak times the government continues to indefatigably seek measures to alleviate the effects on the public and businesses. This includes the introduction of the amended qualifying criteria for the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) benefit applicable as of 26 May 2020. The TERS benefit bracket has been expanded to allow for more employees to qualify for the relief.

What is the TERS benefit?

The TERS benefit is a scheme established to propound relief to employers and employees, through the compensation (wage pay-outs) of employees who have lost income due to COVID-19.

TERS qualifying requirements before 26 May 2020

  • Employer must have closed its operations, or part of its operations, as a direct result of COVID19.
  • Closure of business operations for 3 months or less.
  • Employer is unable to pay or makes partial payments to employees.
  • The employer is registered with Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
  • The employee must have been in the employer’s employ on 27 March 2020.
  • The employee must have suffered, or will suffer, a loss of income as a result of the closure.
  • The employee must be a contributor to UIF.
  • The employee is not in 14-days self-quarantine.
  • The size of the employer’s workforce does not matter, however special provisions of the memorandum of agreement apply to employers with fewer than 10 employees.

TERS qualifying requirements as of 26 May 2020

All requirements above remain the same, with modifications to the following prerequisites – ‘The employee must be a contributor with UIF’ and ‘The employer must be registered with UIF’. According to the Amended COVID-19 TERS Directive the employee must be –

  1. A contributor to UIF, or
  2. An employee as defined in the Unemployment Insurance Act who should have received benefits under TERS but for circumstances beyond the employee’s control, namely that the employer failed to –
  • Register as an employer in contravention with the Unemployment Insurance Act, or
  • Provide details relating to the employee and accordingly not register the employee as a contributor, or
  • Pay the contributions in respect of the employee.

In addition, the TERS benefit has been expanded to allow for pay-outs to workers that have been required to take annual leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The above-mentioned amendments were in response to the public’s acuity that the TERS benefit was prejudicial as it excluded employees at the account of the transgressions of the employer. The expansion of the TERS benefit has thus come along as an indispensable lifeline.

There is also talks of implementing a direct TERS benefit channel in which the employer will no longer need to be an intermediary between the UIF and the employee, and employees may claim directly from UIF. However, no confirmation has been given regarding the direct channel for employees, and our ears remain on the ground for the next update.

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