The Congress of South African Trade Unions is worried that
there is a lack of awareness of the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s benefits among
employees who are vulnerable to job losses due to the coronavirus lockdown.

“We asked the department to do an awareness campaign to
make people aware of the hotline. We are very concerned that there is not
enough [being done] to make sure that employers and workers are aware of the
benefits and how to apply for them,” the federation’s parliamentary
liaison officer, Matthew Parks, said.

Cosatu met with government this past weekend to express its
misgivings at the rollout of UIF benefits and their accessibility, with the
federation claiming some workers could not apply for benefits online and help
centres had too few staff.

The South African Reserve Bank warned last week that as many
as 370 000 jobs could be lost this year as a result of the enforced lockdown.

Andrew Levy, Managing director at Andrew Levy Employment, said
government’s more than R100 billion surplus in the UIF could soften the blow
for employees, but this depended on how long the lockdown and the pandemic
would last.

“The issue is simply that the people who will qualify
are people who have been in employment and have contributed to the fund.
Government has said that they have a surplus in the fund and that the money
will come from there. But it won’t last forever,” said Levy.

Levy said it would be hard to calculate how many people
would need unemployment or salary cover during the lockdown, and that would
have to be taken into consideration.

“Remember, there is a R7 500 limit on what can be paid
out. UIF pays on a sliding scale. It will never pay people who earn above their
formula everything. It is not a dole system. It’s an insurance fund where you
and your employer make contributions. It’s not a state grant, in that sense,”
Levy said.

Levy stressed that this assistance would only apply to those
who have been employed and contributed to the fund.

UIF spokespersons committed to respond to Fin24’s questions
but did not respond by close of business on Wednesday.

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