Pretoria – The benefits paid by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) are set to improve drastically, says Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.

Addressing domestic workers at an imbizo in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape on Saturday, Oliphant said officials were considering extending the unemployment insurance claims benefits period for workers from the current period of six months to a year.

Currently, certain categories of workers are excluded, namely employees on learnership, workers who work less than 24 hours a month for an employer and public servants. In future, all these workers will be

eligible for UIF coverage.

Oliphant released the Unemployment Insurance Act Amendment Bill for public comment in July.

“The proposed amendments also go further and will allow, for example, an applicant who applied for UIF benefits four months after having lost a job to receive the full benefits owed to them. Currently, it would mean that such an applicant would have lost four months in terms of the payment period,” Oliphant said.

She appealed to domestic workers to play an active role when the Department of Labour reviews the sectoral determination next year.

Sectoral determination is part of legislation that deals with the protection of workers in vulnerable sectors/areas of work. The sectoral determination sets minimum working hours, minimum wages, number of leave days and termination rules, amongst others.

“If you don’t make it your business to come to the hearings, employers push their viewpoint and you are left behind. In the final recommendations to the minister, your voice will be sorely lacking and that is not correct,” she said.

According to the UIF database, there are 646 578 domestic employers and 657 908 domestic employees registered for UIF. In September 2013 alone, the amount paid for claims by the UIF (inclusive of the domestic sector) was almost R600 million. 

Despite these figures, a huge number of employers and employees are still not compliant with the UIF.

The imbizo was also used to discuss the possibility of reviewing the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act to extend coverage to domestic workers.

Last week, the minister attended the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) meeting, in which the issue of domestic workers was discussed.

The ILO noted that more needed to be done in many countries to protect domestic workers from the abuse they suffer at the hands of their employers.

South Africa was cited as one of the 10 member states that has ratified Convention 189 on domestic workers. However, more needed to be done, Oliphant said.

“We need a system that will ensure that workers in this sector are no longer abused,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, a new labour centre to deal with labour issues is to be built in Khayelitsha. –