A new Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Bill has been signed into law which will see improved benefits for employees.
The purpose of the Unemployment Insurance Act, No 63 of 2001 is to provide for the payment from the Fund of unemployment benefits to certain employees and for the payment of illness, adoption, maternity and dependents’ benefits related to the unemployment of such an employee.
Among several amendments, the bill:
Increases UIF benefits from 238 to 365 days
Allows employees to apply over 12 months instead of six
Allows employees to apply for maternity leave benefits eight weeks before delivery and up to 12 months after birth
Sees a flat rate for maternity benefits (66% of a female employee's salary)
Let’s the female employee who have lost their child in the last trimester qualify for maternity benefits
Grants people on learnerships to apply for benefits
UIF benefits will not be stopped when a beneficiary dies, but will be paid out to their dependents.
Claims from the UIF can be made for longer period
Prior to these amendments, the employee were only able to claim from the UIF for 238 days’ work. Now it is possible to claim from the UIF for 365 days work. These benefits may be claimed over 12 months instead of the previous six months.
Dependents’ benefits can be claimed by the spouse or minor children of someone who has died, who had been paying UIF contributions to the Fund.
The dependents of a deceased breadwinner now have up to 18 months in which to apply for the dependent benefit.
This is especially positive for those in low-income jobs because they often learn about such benefits being available to them long after the breadwinner has died, and traditionally in many black communities, widows are not allowed to be outside their homes for long periods while they are in mourning, which takes anything from six months or longer.
Another change is that there is now a provision that allows contributors to the Fund with no dependents to nominate beneficiaries of their choice in the event of death, provided the deceased had no spouse, life partner or dependent children.
Illness benefits can be claimed if the employee is off work for two weeks due to illness and will not receive a salary from the employer. This has now been changed to seven days, meaning the employee can now claim for illness benefits if they are off work for seven days.
Learners who were on ‘learnership’, Public Servants and Foreign Nationals are now able to claim for UIF benefits.
Now let’s have a look at the changes to the Maternity Benefit and how they will impact Employees.
Previously the employee had six months in which to claim for maternity benefits, meaning that if six months passed before the employee claims, the employee was unable to put in a claim. The time in which the employee can put in a claim has now been increased to 12 months. This means that the employee now has a year within which the employee can submit the employer application for benefits.
If the employee has claimed for maternity benefits before, the employee will recall that if the employee had claimed for any type of benefits within a four-year cycle, such as unemployment, this negatively affected the employee when the employee applied for maternity benefits during this four-year period because the employee would not be able to claim for full maternity benefits.
Fortunately, this has changed and now the employee claim for any other benefits would not affect the employee’s ability to claim for full maternity benefits.
A fixed rate of 66% of a female employee’s salary (instead of the current sliding scale of between 38% and 60%), has now been introduced, subject to the maximum income threshold as set out in the Act.
The following also applies:
Full maternity benefits can now be claimed by female employees who had miscarriages in their third trimester. The contributor is entitled to benefits for 17-32 weeks. To claim, the contributor must have been employed for 13 weeks prior to claiming the maternity-related UIF benefit.
Application for benefits can now be made before or after the birth of a child – but no later than 12 months after the birth of the child.
And after a traumatic experience of losing a child – this may go a long way towards providing the support and time to recuperate.
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