By Jessie Taylor
More than 1.5 million companies in South Africa pay contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) on behalf of their workers, which gives employees a safety net should they lose their work or be unable to work due to certain provisions.
The UIF also gives short-term relief to employees who are unable to work because of maternity, adoption and parental leave, or illness. It also provides relief to the dependents of a deceased contributor.
In December alone, more than R1-billion was processed and paid to just over 225 000 beneficiaries, said UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping. Of the benefits paid out, R876-million were for unemployment claims.
Two percent of every employee’s salary is paid towards the UIF. Each employee pays 1% of their salary, which the employer matches. The onus falls on employers to ensure all workers are registered with the UIF and deduct the employee’s monthly contribution. The employer is also responsible for paying the funds over to the UIF.
However, employees are exempted from paying towards UIF if they are
- Employed by the employer for less than 24 hours a month
- Employed by the national or provincial government
- A member of a municipal council, a traditional leader, a member of a Provincial House of Traditional Leaders or a member of the Council of Traditional Leaders
All workers who contributed to the UIF can claim if they have been retrenched, if their contract has expired, or if their employer is bankrupt. They do not qualify for UIF benefits if they resign, take early retirement, or are subject to constructive dismissal.
Domestic workers with more than one employer can claim if they lose their job with one of their employers or if an employer passes away.
While the UIF primarily exists to assist those who are unemployed, it also offers several other benefits:
1. Illness benefits
Employees can claim from the UIF if they are off work because of illness for more than two weeks. To qualify for illness benefits, the employee must have contributed every month and be able to show they have been ill for more than 14 days. In the case of an employee that has been paid by their employer during their illness, the benefit will be the difference between what the employer paid and the benefit that the employee would have been entitled to had they not fallen ill.
2. Maternity benefits
Employees who are pregnant qualify for UIF benefits. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows for a pregnant woman to take maternity leave from four weeks before the expected date of birth, and she may not return to work for six weeks after the birth. If she has contributed to the UIF, she may claim for maternity benefits within eight weeks of childbirth or within six months after the child’s birth. If an employee has applied for maternity benefits, she may still claim unemployment benefits if she also loses employment.
3. Parental benefits
On 1 January 2020, new amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act came into effect, allowing parents who do not qualify for maternity leave to take parental leave. UIF benefits also extend to those who take parental leave; they are entitled to 10 days and may claim up to 66% of their earnings from the UIF.
4. Adoption benefits
An employee who adopts a child younger than two and leaves work to care for that child can apply for adoption benefits. Only one of the adoptive parents can apply for the benefit, and the child must be adopted in terms of the Children’s Act.
5. Dependents’ benefits
If an employee passes away while employed, the employee’s dependents can claim UIF benefits. A dependent can be the employee’s spouse or children under the age of 18.
The UIF and payment of contributions is governed by the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act, and these two pieces of legislation set out details around benefits, contributors, and the collection of the contributions to the UIF.
This legislation makes it illegal for an employer to take more than 1% of an employee’s salary for UIF or charge employees for deducting UIF as an additional service. Employers are also prohibited from deducting a larger percentage from salaries if they fall behind with UIF payments, and if employers deduct too much money by accident, they must pay the extra money back to workers.
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