The deadline for claims under the COVID-19 UIF TERS relief scheme has NOT expired and employers should continue to apply for lockdown relief benefits until the department indicates otherwise, says Department of Employment and Labour Director-General Thobile Lamati.
“We would like to make it clear that we have not reached the deadline yet,” Lamati said. “The [application] period will depend on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed, but it shall not exceed 3 months, which is the period given for the COVID-19 TERS relief benefit.”
Employers have, however, been complaining for some time about the frustrating application process that required some of them to re-submit information as many as 4-6 times. (NB: please note that employee details have to be saved as CSV files in Excel before you submit it).
More than R1.5-bn relief due to workers is being held by the Fund as it awaits further particulars from more than 55 000 employers, confirms Lamati. He adds that the department is concerned that more than 361 557 workers may be disadvantaged because their details on the systems are missing and therefore cannot access the relief.
Last week Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi urged companies to please apply for UIF TERS debt relief on behalf of their employees – even small companies who had not registered for UIF or kept their payments up to date.
“We will not punish workers due to irresponsible employers,” he said, explaining that such companies can still be eligible for the company relief scheme, but they must make arrangements to register and pay their UIF debt.
According to an amended directive of 20 April It is now clear that employees who were required to take annual leave during the period that the employer’s business was closed (either completely or partially) may claim from the COVID-19 TERS benefit, says Business for SA. Annual leave days are therefore regarded as no income days for purposes of the benefit. An employer who receives the benefit on behalf of its employees may retain the amount, but must then credit the employee concerned with the proportionate entitlement to annual leave, explains the business organisation.
In order to deal with all the enquiries the number of agents manning the call centre (see below) has been increased from 75 to 400. The department has also made a list available with contact details of district offices and the relevant people. Download the document here: UIF contact numbers.
“It is important that all parties understand that the UIF cannot deal with millions of individual claims – this would lead to chaos. Rather we have put in place systems to pay out UIF benefits through companies, sectoral associations and bargaining councils,” says the minister. “Indeed the Textile Bargaining Council has already concluded such an agreement (MOU) with labour.”
There are at least 1.8-m employers on the department’s database with the payroll to cover over 8-m workers.
Registered employers who do not know their UIF reference number, but know their Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) number, can now retrieve the UIF number by using their PAYE number, says UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping .
The online system has also been upgraded to enable employers, employees and unions to see who have been paid so that workers can see whether their companies had received payment on their behalf.
Since April 16 this year the lockdown relief scheme has paid out R4.5-bn for the benefit of 1 110 729 workers, which had been submitted by 72 221 employers.
In addition, the Fund continues to pay normal benefits and paid more than R1-bn for ordinary unemployment, maternity, dependant etc. benefits to 62 213 claimants in April. There was on average a 4% rise in payments and claimants. In total, the UIF Fund therefore paid more than R5-bn in normal and COVID-19 benefits in April.
- The Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) call centre toll free number is 0800 030 007. The email is Corona19ters@labour.gov.za.
- Guidelines to apply for TERS Relief can be found here and answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found here.
- The contact details of labour district offices can be downloaded here: UIF contact numbers.