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Talks on the cards over paternity leave

| Legislation

The Department of Labour said future amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Act may include extending benefits to employees who have resigned from their workplaces, irrespective of the reasons.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and director general Thobile Lamati briefed the media as a precursor to government’s labour month programme. 

Oliphant said South Africa’s labour legislation, including the recent amendments to the UIF Act as well as the Compensation Fund, are in line with international best practice and the Constitution. 

During question time, Oliphant was asked if there will be any future amendments to the Act – over and above the recent additional provisions in the Act that were signed into law in January this year. 

The Minister said in her response there has been an agreement to consult with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in two years’ time about future amendments, such as extending paternity leave to fathers and including employees who resign from their workplaces, “for whatever reasons”. 

“The basic conditions of employment provisions in the legislation need to be amended to cater for that,” Oliphant said. 

New provisions in UIF Act

In January this year, President Jacob Zuma signed into law amendments to the UIF Act, which among other things: 

- allow a contributor to the Fund who loses his or her income due to reduced working time to claim for benefits under certain conditions (in the past this benefit was only available to domestic workers); 

- state that maternity benefits will be paid at a fixed rate of 66% of earnings, instead of the previous sliding scale of 38% to 60%; 

- extending the period for which contributors will receive benefits to 365 days instead of 238 days; and 

- extending maternity benefits to contributors who miscarry in the third trimester (such contributors will also be entitled to full maternity benefits).

Compensation Fund

The Labour Ministry was also asked to elaborate on the state of the Compensation Fund, which is currently being restructured. 

The Fund, which serves to compensate employees who are injured or contract diseases at work, has been in disarray and currently faces a backlog of 60 000 claims. 

Director general Lamati, however, pointed out that the backlogs only pertain to historic claims – in cases where the claimants failed to provide medical reports and other relevant documentation. 

“There is no backlog with regard to new claims,” he said, adding that the department requested claimants of outstanding claims to come forward in order for their cases to be concluded. 

Blitz inspections 

As part of the Department of Labour’s workers month initiative, Oliphant said inspectors will also conduct blitz visits to certain sectors of the economy where employees have been found to be “perpetual offenders” of labour legislation across the country. 

The inspections will commence on May 3 when inspectors will visit farms in Limpopo province to see whether employers are complying with among other things occupational health and safety regulations.

Oliphant said there instances where employers claim they cannot afford to comply with all aspects. 

“But when the legislation was drafted businesses participated at Nedlac level and they were signatories [to the agreements]. So we expect everybody to comply with legislation. The laws we have emanates from our Constitution,” the Minister said.

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