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On Friday, 30 October 2020, the Minister of Employment and Labour unexpectedly announced that the TERS benefits for employees who are still unable to attend work, due to the Covid-19 Level 1 lockdown regulations, will cease on 15 September 2020, and that there will be no further extension.
This unilateral act by the Minister flies in the face of a Government Gazette published by the Department on 7 September, which indicates that the TERS benefits will be extended until the end of the National State of Disaster, which, according to the latest extension by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is applicable until 15 November 2020.
This was confirmed by a media statement by the Department on 30 September 2020. The Minister and the Department’s denial that this is indeed the current state of affairs is quite unsettling.
This about-turn by the Minister, after a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), which has no constitutional, legislative or executive authority, is unlawful. As long as the empowering regulation is in force, the Department of Employment and Labour has to comply with it.
Should the Department wish to stop TERS payments, which clearly seems to be the case, they will have to repeal the prevailing Government Gazette first. Whether that can be done lawfully is questionable, especially in view of the fact that many employers, on the basis of the Regulations, have paid their employees, who are unable to work as a result of the lockdown regulations, in advance.
This surprise announcement by the Minister will seal the fate of many thousands of employees who still cannot return to work as a result of the restrictive regulations imposed by, among others, the very same Department.
This state of affairs is shameful and indefensible and needs to be addressed and /or rectified as a matter of urgency.
This is a press release by Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA).