The Unemployment Insurance Fund Amendment Act was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma, in January this year. This act brings about many changes that will benefit a wider range of people and it will also be easier to claim.
Previously foreign nationals who worked in South Africa were not able to claim UIF benefits. The UIF Amendment Act now provides that if foreign nationals are employed in South Africa legally, they can claim unemployment benefits on the same terms as South Africans. This will benefit a large number of foreign nationals who work in South Africa.
Students who have been registered for learnerships in terms of the Skills Development Act and cannot find work after completion of the learnership, can now also claim benefits under the UIF Amendment Act.
Employees who are forced to work for reduced hours due to businesses cutting down on normal hours to save costs, can now claim for loss of income. In a struggling economy, employers often reduce work hours in order to avoid retrenching employees. The new Act will help those employees who have to suffer loss of income due to the reduced hours.
If you have lost your job, benefits are now payable for a period of 12 months (previously eight), and you can also make application for an extension of benefits where the need arises and if you make a proper motivation. Previously if you wanted to claim for benefits, you had to do so within six months of losing your job. But the Amendment Act now provides that application for benefits can now be made within 12 months back-dated to last date of employment.
Another significant change is that under the new law, families and/or nominated beneficiaries of a deceased claimant would be allowed to receive the deceased’s benefits. According to the old Act, death benefits had to be claimed within six months. This disadvantaged many families, who often find out too late about these benefits or due to traditions requiring a widow to be secluded from the public for 12 months, resulted in widows missing the deadline for submitting a claim. The UIF Amendment Act extends the time limit for claiming death benefits to 18 months, which is enough time for families to report the death and complete the traditional mourning process.
Pregnant women can now claim benefits eight weeks before the birth of the child and not four weeks as previously. This improves their chances of receiving benefits when they need it and on time. A huge improvement in the new act is that maternity benefits have been increased from 45% to 66% of the salary. Pregnant women will be entitled to full maternity benefits for 121 days, instead of six weeks, in the event of a miscarriage during the third trimester or a stillbirth.
Employees who are ill and have run out of sick leave can also benefit under the Amended UIF Act. Before, seriously ill employees could only claim from UIF if their illness continued for 14 days after their sick leave was exhausted. The new position the Act puts forward is that they can claim if the illness continued after seven days after exhausting their sick leave.
Should you wish you submit a claim in terms of any provision of the Unemployment Insurance Fund Amendment Act, please go to your closest Department of Labour for assistance.