We have to applaud the people of South Africa for the overwhelming support and compliance thus far during the lockdown to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Inevitably, there will be challenges and the need to take remedial action. This is the case in relation to leave arrangements. As the Department of Employment and Labour we are receiving concerns from workers and unions that some employers are seeking to shift the burden of the lockdown onto the workers, using their annual leave as the first line of response to the lockdown.
We are also getting complaints from workers that their employers have instructed them to take unpaid leave during this lockdown. We do understand that in terms of the leave determination, employers can compel employees to take leave at any time as they deem fit. However, this is a different situation that requires all of us to act in a manner that seeks to promote social solidarity.
As the Department, we have issued a directive explaining the process to be followed and the kind of benefit the employees will be entitled to. Despite the fact that we announced a National Disaster COVID 19 benefit that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has put in place as an instrument to mitigate the effects of lay-offs of workers during the lockdown.
It is important though, that all parties understand that the UIF cannot deal with millions of individual claims – this would lead to delays in the processing of such claims. Rather we have put in place systems to pay out UIF benefits through companies, sectoral associations and bargaining councils. We are in process of concluding such an agreement with the Textile Bargaining Council. We would also like to mention that discussions with the travel and tourism sector are underway.
We need to stress that such arrangements require that we enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with employer bodies including and Bargaining Council that their use of the monies will be subject to audit. This has led to some resistance from some employers. We all need to understand that these are public funds and that by law have to be audited. We therefore, shall insist on the implementation of proper governance in this regard. None of us have a choice in the matter
I urge all parties to get together and engage so that we can expedite the payment of these monies to the workers that need them. The UIF staff is available to assist in any way necessary. To this effect, we have a hotline number that can be used to get an advice on how to access the benefit I spoke about and how employer can go about in assisting their employees. The call center number is 012 337 1997 from 08h00 - 20h00. The Call Centre operates from Monday to Friday.
We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the employers who have reached out to us by not only paying the workers in full during this lockdown but also made themselves available to assist us to act as disbursing agents during this period.
In response to numerous complaints from workers that some employers are forcing them to work without the necessary personal protective equipment, our Labour Inspectors are following up – largely, at the moment, in Gauteng, Western Cape and KZN. Indeed, one retail outlet was closed down yesterday. The inspectors are also finding violations of existing health and safety regulations.
Our inspectors are being accompanied by SAPS and Department of Trade and Industry officials. The reason for the latter is that some employers have fraudulent certificates declaring that they can continue to operate as essential services.
The Inspectorate will issue a daily report on their findings. At this stage, we are urging these employers to do the right thing. By next week, we will start to name and shame individual companies and branches.
Again, the seriousness of the present crisis calls upon all of us to rise to the occasion and comply fully with the conditions and regulations of the lockdown.
So, wash your hands, practice physical distancing, stay at home and stay safe.
Statement from T.W. Nxesi, Minister of Employment and Labour
Mr. Sabelo Mali
082 729 5804
Ms. Aggy Moiloa
Inspector General Department of Employment and Labour
Mobile: 082 885 5187
Issued by: Ministry of Department of Employment and Labour
© 2019 - The South African Department of Employment & Labour