By Adv. Giselle Rüther
The outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa has left people afraid of contracting the Corona Virus and afraid of not surviving the virus economically as a result of social distancing.
The lockdown has created a three-way divide in the work force:
- Firstly, there are essential workers such as police, nurses and grocery shop workers;
- Secondly, the non-essential workers who cannot work online such as waitresses, car mechanics and domestic workers;
- Thirdly non-essential workers such as IT support, call centre operators and bookkeepers.
The essential workers live in fear that they will contract the virus as they cannot self-isolate, the non-essential workers who cannot work remotely live in fear that they will not get paid during lockdown and the third category are the lucky few who are currently least affected by the virus.
South Africans are fortunate that the government has issued regulations to assist the first two categories of employees.
For the first category a Compensation Fund has been established for those who contract COVID-19 while performing an essential service. The Fund will compensate the worker for 30 days from date of diagnosis. The employer will be liable to compensate a worker if a medical practitioner has recommended self-isolation prior without a diagnosis in the event, for example, they are showing symptoms after coming into contact with someone with a confirmed case of Corona. If there are complications that result in permanent disablement the fund will provide life-long compensation, but this will be determined on a case by case basis. In the unfortunate event that an essential worker dies as a result of contracting reasonable burial expenses, widows and dependants’ pensions shall be paid, where applicable.
Online claims for COVID-19 must be made through the following channels indicating the ICD-10 code-U07.1:
Compensation fund: CompEasy (www.labour.gov.za)
Rand Mutual Assurance: CompCare (www.randmutual.co.za)
Federated Employers Mutual: IMS (https://roe.fem.co.za)
Manual claims for COVID-19 must be sent to these email addresses:
Compensation fund: email@example.com or phone 0860 105 350
Rand Mutual Assurance: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0860 222 132
Federated Employers Mutual: FEM-Registry@fema.co.za or phone 011 359 4300
Many non-essential workers are in the position where their employers have been forced to shut down their businesses temporarily for at least the duration of the lock down. As a result, these workers find themselves in a position where they have been temporarily laid off due to the fact that their employers are not in the economic position to pay the workers while they are not working and not generating an income for the business.
In order to assist employers and workers who fall into this category the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has established a COVID-19 Temporary Employer- Employee Relief Scheme (Covid TERS) to mitigate the damage to employers and workers as a result of the national shutdown.
An employer who is financially distressed by COVID-19 should apply on behalf of their employees to the Covid TERS at Covid19ters@labour.gov.za or call 012 337 1997. This benefit is only available to employers who have paid the requisite monthly contributions to the UIF. The salary benefits will be determined on a sliding scale with a maximum cap of R17 712,00 per month for up to three months.
The government has also provided assistance for small business owners directly affected by COVID-19 and application for relief can be made at www.smmesa.gov.za. Unfortunately assistance is limited to wholly South African owned businesses.
It is important that South Africans make use of these avenues to stay afloat, not only for themselves but so that the economy can recover once we are out of the woods.
Adv. Giselle Rüther, Advocate at the Cape Bar