Answer to a question from a reader

I qualified for a disability grant but after missing work, my UIF claim was rejected. What must I do?

The short answer

You can still claim, but it depends on several factors.

The whole question

I previously qualified for a disability grant but was unable to claim my UIF benefits. This was because I absconded from my work, due to an illness. Can I take my disability papers to the UIF and still claim my UIF benefits?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking if you can claim UIF benefits which were refused before on the grounds that you had absconded from your work, now that you have qualified for a disability grant.

Firstly, you may not know that a person who is unable to work because of illness and who is still employed and contributing to UIF, can claim illness benefits from UIF, if he or she was receiving less than their normal wage while on sick leave.

If the person was too ill to go to the labour department themselves, they can send someone else with the following documents:

  • 13-digit bar-coded ID or passport;
  • form UI-2.8 for banking details;
  • form UI-19 to show that they are not working;
  • form UI-2.7;
  • medical certificate from a doctor;
  • amplifying medical report; and a follow-up form

Secondly, what does absconding actually mean?

Absconding means that you did not intend to return to work. If you stay away from work for a number of days without letting the employer know where you are, the employer can infer that you don’t intend to come back to work. If you let the employer know where you are, you are indicating that you do intend to return to work, and therefore the employer cannot dismiss you for absconding.

You could certainly take your disability papers to the UIF, and try to convince them that you did not abscond, but were disabled by illness, but if they remain adamant that you absconded, you could approach the CCMA to get your UIF benefits restored. 

Where an employee has taken their abscondment case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the CCMA has held that the employer needs to prove that they tried to find out where the employee was. The CCMA has also held that an absconding employee must be given an opportunity to convince the employer that they had a good reason for staying away. The employer may not simply dismiss an absconding employee when they return to work without giving them a hearing.

To take an unfair dismissal case to the CCMA, you need to approach them within 30 days of being dismissed. In discrimination cases, you have six months to approach the CCMA.

If you feel you have a reasonable chance of success and are within the time limits indicated above, you could approach the CCMA. If they agree that your dismissal for absconding was unfair, they can make an order reinstating your UIF benefits.

Answered on March 11, 2020, 4:52 p.m.

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