Measures to protect workers during lockdown

Dale Hes
Government has announced a number of measures to protect workers from the impact of the lockdown.
These include employees who work in non-essential services and are required to stay at home.
The Department of Employment and Labour measures to protect affected employees include the establishment of
the Covid-19 Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) set up through the Unemployment Insurance Fund
Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi explained that if employers were forced to close during the
lockdown, they can apply to the relief scheme to pay their employees.
“This benefit will be de-linked from the UIF’s normal benefit structure. This benefit will be at a flat rate equal to
the minimum wage per employee for the duration of the shutdown, to a maximum period of three months,” he
In other words, once businesses apply for the benefit and their application is approved, the UIF will provide at
least R3 500 per employee. If they earn above the national minimum wage, then employees are entitled to receive
between 38% and 60% of their normal salaries.
The minister has encouraged businesses to approach the UIF so that applications can be processed quickly.
However, if businesses do not approach the UIF for assistance, then employees who are working reduced hours or
are not being paid can individually apply to TERS or existing UIF benefits.
Workers must be aware that employers are not allowed to force their employees to take unpaid leave during the
The department’s chief director of labour relations, Thembinkosi Mkalipi advises employers not to force their
staff to take either paid or unpaid leave.
“We encourage employers not to request employees to utilise their annual leave credits for the lockdown, but to
rather utilise the financial assistance the department has placed at their disposal through the Covid-19 TERS, in
cases where companies cannot afford to pay employees,” Mkalipi says.
Employers of domestic workers have also been encouraged to give their employees paid leave. If they are unable
to do so, then the domestic worker will be able to claim the national minimum wage from TERS.
The Department has set up a hotline number that can be used to get advice on how to access the TERS benefit.
UIF staff will assist employers and employees with queries between 8am and 8pm, Mondays to Fridays, at 012 337
Minister Nxesi has stressed that employers of those working in essential services must have all the measures in
place to protect the workers.
The department has received complaints about companies forcing employees to work without the necessary
protective equipment. Labour inspectors are following up on the complaints.
“At this stage we urge these employers to do the right thing. After that we will start to name and shame individual
companies and branches,” he says.
Employers can apply via or contact the UIF on 0800 030 007.
If you believe you are being unfairly treated in any way by your employer during the lockdown, or that you are
not being protected from health risks in the workplace, contact the department at 0800 843 843.
This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk’uzenzele.

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