More than 8.5 million people are receiving payments from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. If a bill before parliament’s labour committee is passed, benefits could be extended to a year.

The far-reaching amendment to the Unemployment Insurance Act would extend Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits from a maximum of 238 days to a maximum of 365 days.

Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant introduced the bill just before the elections, but the committee did not have enough time to examine it.

Currently, the maximum an employee can claim from UIF is eight months, provided he or she has contributed for 238 days over four years. The amendment would allow workers to receive UIF benefits for one year.

“For the same contributions workers will be compensated for a year instead of eight months,” says Muzi Mkhwanazi, deputy director of communications and marketing at the UIF.

To qualify for the extension, claimants must be registered as work seekers with the ESSA (Employment Services of South Africa) at the Department of Labour.

“The bill also proposes that the current six month period to claim for UIF benefits should be extended to a year. This will give affected workers sufficient time to claim for UIF benefits,” Mkhwanazi says.

Among other things, the bill also seeks:

to include learners, public servants and foreign workers who are currently not covered by UIF

to extend the period in which a worker can lodge a claim from six months to twelve months

to allow workers who still have credits with the UIF to claim, regardless of when they last submitted a claim

to provide for the nomination of beneficiaries when a worker dies

to extend the period in which claims can be lodged after the death of a worker to 18 months

to allow workers who suffer a miscarriage to claim maternity benefits for 121 days instead of 42 days at present.

Since January, 933 people have been unsuccessful when submitting claims, says Mkhwanazi.