16 April 2020
Did you know that new information has come to light in respect of UIF claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic?
As indicated before regarding the topic of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown, the UIF may assist your employees that will lose income because of the national lockdown.
Government has introduced the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (COVID19TERS) to help such affected employees. As previously indicated, the UIF still recommends that employers submit claims on behalf of all their affected employees, whereafter the UIF will then pay out the claims in a lump sum to the employer, for further distribution to the affected employees.
In light of the many frustrations and practical complications experienced by businesses in dealing with the UIF and filing claims under this programme, we have compiled a summary of the key takeaways from recent news, as well as information links and procedures which have been useful and successful in practice.
The current state of affairs:
Although many financially distressed businesses have applied for relief from the COVID-19 TERS scheme on behalf of their employees, the process of money being paid out by the UIF or communications from their side, generally appears to be a slow process. Many of these businesses in turn appear to be growing concerned, since salary payments and resultant explanations to their employees regarding the state of their UIF claims are on the horizon for the month of April.
New information has however become available regarding the current state of affairs and progress regarding the processing of claims by the UIF. The UIF has set aside R40 billion for this relief programme and the UIF Commissioner has confirmed that to date the UIF has paid out some R460 million under this programme.
The UIF Commissioner has also recently indicated that while it appears that the processing of claims is moving slowly, this is in fact not the case since most of the claims received by the UIF were not valid (for various reasons including applications that were not completed correctly and applications that were submitted in duplicate). These invalid applications also had to be processed and excluded from consideration, which has taken up time.
It appears that employers have to apply online in order to access the benefits under this programme, on the following platform: https://uifecc.labour.gov.za/covid19/. Employers may apparently also send a blank electronic mail to email@example.com. They will then receive an automated response containing all the relevant forms and documents that need to be completed in order to apply for benefits.
The UIF Commissioner has further indicated that one issue that they have picked up in the majority of the invalid applications, was the fact that an UIF MS Excel template was not correctly converted to a CSV file before being submitted and that many of these files did not contain all the correct information.
As previously indicated, the benefits paid out under this programme will not cover 100% of the salaries of affected employees, but rather between 38% and 60%. The maximum salary amount that will be considered is R17,712.00, which essentially means that if affected employees earn more than that amount, they would not receive a percentage of their full salary, but rather 38% of R17,712.00. however, should an affected employee’s salary be less than the maximum threshold, then the UIF will determine the payout amount using an automated calculator. The minimum amount that the UIF will pay out to an affected employee is R3,500.00 and the maximum is around is R6,730.00.
The UIF Commissioner has also confirmed that applications which are complete and correct in all respects should take a maximum of ten days to be processed and for the relevant amounts to be paid out.
The UIF has also confirmed that their dedicated helpline should still be used by employers and other parties that wish to claim under this programme, in order to obtain further information. The contact number is 012 337 1997 with its operating hours being 6am to 6pm every day.
In other positive news, the UIF has confirmed that it has also contracted 50 more call centre agents (seconded from Harambe, PWC and the Banking Association) in managing and administering claims.
Practical tips and information:
It appears that in order to ensure that your application is successfully processed and money paid out by the UIF in terms of this scheme, it is essential that applications be comprehensively and correctly completed and submitted on the designated platform.
Documents, such as the MS Excel document (to be converted to a CSV file before submission) should be carefully considered and completed. This document requires information relating to the details of the business, the date on which it closed, a list of its employees (together with the dates they commenced their employment, their identity numbers, and their remuneration).
The UIF has also indicated that it is of critical importance for employers to indicate the amount of remuneration that the employee has received during the shutdown period.
A useful frequently asked document, dealing with the main questions and procedures relating to the COVID-19 TERS employer-employee relief scheme can be found at: http://www.labour.gov.za/DocumentCenter/Publications/Unemployment%20Insurance%20Fund/COVID%2019%20FAQ.pdf.
For the moment and at the time of publication, this is the information we have obtained. We will keep you updated should any further relevant information come to our attention.
Although we have used our best efforts to ensure that all information contained in this communication is accurate as at the date hereof, we cannot guarantee the accuracy thereof and recommend verification thereof before use.