Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said individual companies in South Africa are becoming “distressed” due to the coronavirus and so, the department has come up with a few measures to relieve some of the pressure.
The minister was addressing the Executive Committee meeting at The National Economic Development and Labour Council on Monday 16 March, in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has affected at least 102 countries worldwide.
Coronavirus affected companies to receive a reprieve
Nxesi said that in order to assist the distressed companies, a period of reprieve will be considered in order for companies not to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
He said the Funds Temporary Employer/ Employee Relief Scheme will also be used to ensure that workers are not laid off.
“In instances where companies decide to close for a short period as a precautionary measure, the short term UIF benefit will kick in. If a company contemplates a short term shut down, they are required to inform the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Our team will visit these companies to provide assistance with the processing of the claims,” said Nxesi.
Quarantine of 14 days considered as special leave
In instances where an employee has to be self-quarantined for 14 days due to the coronavirus, such leave will be recognised as a special leave which will be fully paid on condition that the reason for the quarantine meets the requirements and that an employee can apply for UIF benefits.
In an event that an employee is required to be quarantined for longer than 14 days as a result of having travelled or been in contact with an infected person, such a leave will be recognised as special leave and that employee will be eligible to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
The minister urged employers to conduct a health and safety risk assessment in consultation with the workers, whilst ensuring that measures are put in place to ensure a healthy workplace for the workers as required by law.
He said employers are required to provide necessary protective equipment and put in place systems to deal with the outbreak, as well as including all mitigating measures that are to be put in place until the coronavirus outbreak has been dealt with.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday 15 March ordered the closure of South African borders to high-risk countries such as Italy and China, and asked citizens to remain home and avoid travel, as part of the country’s response to the coronavirus epidemic.
A total of 62 cases of the virus have been diagnosed in South Africa, with the first cases of local transmission reported.