Answer to a question from a reader

Can an asylum seeker claim unemployment insurance?

The short answer

Yes, the courts have ruled that asylum seekers are entitled to claim UIF benefits.

The whole question

My husband is an asylum seeker and worked for an employer for almost three years and UIF was deducted from his salary. But he was let go, and when he went to claim UIF, he was told that only South African citizens can claim UIF. Is this correct? 

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking whether your asylum seeker husband should be paid from the Unemployment Insurance Fund after his employer had deducted UIF contributions for almost three years.

The good news is that your husband is entitled to be paid UIF benefits, after two court cases established the rights of asylum seekers to claim UIF benefits:

In July 2017 the Equality Court in Vereeniging ruled that it was unfair discrimination to refuse UIF benefits to an asylum seeker on the basis that he didn’t have a passport or ID number. The Department of Labour was ordered to correct its computer systems to allow any asylum seeker who had contributed UIF to receive benefits.

And again in February 2019, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that it was unconstitutional to exclude asylum seekers from claiming UIF benefits, and ordered the Department of Labour to make the necessary changes in its systems to allow asylum seekers to claim benefits.

It may be that the Department of Labour has not yet directed its local offices to make these changes, and that is why your husband is being refused, but in that the courts have made a clear ruling on this, it can be compelled to comply with the law.

You could ask Lawyers for Human Rights' Refugee and Migrants Rights Programme to assist you if the Department of Labour continues to refuse to comply:


 Telephone number: 

 (011) 339 1960

 (011) 339 2665



Answered on June 26, 2019, 10:12 a.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.