Many employees still desperate to share in UIF Ters benefit

Foreigners hard hit by the delays

Hundreds of employees are increasingly desperate or frustrated as they have not been paid the Unemployment Insurance Funds’ Covid-19 Temporary Employer Relief Scheme  benefits. 

People wait in a queue at Middestad Mall in Cape Town to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund for loss of income. Many Sowetan readers are still waiting for payments. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/JACQUES STANDER
People wait in a queue at Middestad Mall in Cape Town to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund for loss of income. Many Sowetan readers are still waiting for payments. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/JACQUES STANDER

Hundreds of employees are increasingly desperate or frustrated as they have not been paid the Unemployment Insurance Funds’ Covid-19 Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) benefits. 

Many suspect their employers are wrongly withholding benefits that have been paid.

For more than three million workers the UIFs Ters benefit has brought welcome relief as R16.5 billion has been paid to those who lost their income or a portion of their income as a result of the lockdown in April.

Last week the UIF opened for online applications for benefits for May and this week it announced that R1bn of payments have been processed already. 

But Sowetan received numerous emails from employees who have not received the benefits they expected, and some were desperate for help.

A Mfuleni worker who said his employer applied for the benefit on April 19 said he had a three-week-old baby whose mother was breastfeeding on an empty stomach because he had not yet received the UIF Ters payment. 

The National Employers Association of South Africa said a survey of its members this week showed 32% of employers had not received April UIF/Ters monies and of the 68% that were paid, only 32% were paid in full.

Many foreigners, some of whom have been contributing to the UIF for years, wrote to Sowetan to say their colleagues had been paid but they had not. Despite this, Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi stated publicly that foreigners were being paid. 

What can you do to check on a UIF Ters claim

If you want to check on the status of a UIF Ters claim, visit the website. Look for “My payment status”. Enter the Captcha code and your ID number. 

If  an application has been lodged for you, you should be told the status of that application – if a benefit has been paid, you will see “Payment processed” and the amount and the date on which it was paid. If you have not received your amount paid to you, you need to take the matter up with your employer.

Unfortunately, the UIF site does not say to whom the April benefits have been paid – they may have been paid to your employer or to the bargaining council for the industry in which you work.

Foreigners' applications have to be accompanied by copies of their passports and work permits, and the UIF has yet to respond to Sowetan’s questions about why applications that include these documents have not been paid.

Other employees wrote to Sowetan to say that they believed their employers were withholding their UIF Ters benefits.

When the UIF offices opened the online applications for benefits for May last week, there were some new features on the website and one of these allows you, as an employee, to check on the status of a claim for the benefit, even if it was submitted on your behalf by your employer. 

If the benefit has been paid, your employer is not allowed to keep the money as the Labour Minister’s general notice under the Disaster Management Relief Act published in the Government Gazette states that no amount paid to an employer or bargaining council can be kept by them and no bank can refuse to pay the money to you, an employee, even if you owe the bank on an overdraft or loan.

There may be some confusion, however, if your employer paid you the benefit in advance before it received the money from the UIF.

However, if this was the case it should have been clearly told you that the money it was paying was an advance of the UIF Ters benefit and then it may retain the amount it paid you in advance. 

Werksmans Attorneys’ Andre van Heerden, Jacques van Wyk and Thabisa Yantolo say in an article on the law firm’s website that the UIF advises that if an employer pays the UIF Ters benefit in advance it needs to do so in agreement with you, its employee. 

It should not reflect the payment as remuneration or salary on your payslip but should keep the records to show the payment was made as it could be audited by the UIF.

When applying for benefits for May, employers have been encouraged to include the bank details of their employees when applying for benefits so that the benefits can be paid directly to you.  

The UIF says in its frequently asked questions that freelance and casual workers will not qualify for benefits unless they are working 24 hours a month and they have an employee/employer relationship. 

However, after the UIF settled an urgent court application brought by the Casual Workers Advice Office, the minister amended the directive on the UIF Ters benefit to include workers whose employer failed to register them for UIF. 

What you can do if your employer has not applied

If you have been paying UIF and your employer fails to apply for the benefit on your behalf, you can now apply for yourself from the uFiling website and look for employee applications. You will need to register with the site, have an email address, provide your ID number and pay before and after deductions.

Q&A with Tamsanqa Mila to help clear confusion on UIF Ters benefit

Money asked Tamsanqa Mila, associate in the employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr to answer some common questions causing confusion about the UIF Ters benefit.

Q: I have been working part-time since the lockdown. Do I qualify for the UIF Ters benefit? 

A: You qualify for the Ters benefit if your employers' business operations were temporarily or permanently shut down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. If your employer did not temporarily or permanently shut down, the benefit cannot be activated.

If your employer’s operations did not shut down, but you were required to work shorter hours during the lockdown, your employer may claim for the difference in pay from the UIF.

Q: If I received payment for April, do I have to apply again for May?

A: Yes, it appears that fresh applications need to be made for each of the three months for which the benefits are available. Each application must reflect the circumstances of the employee for that month. 

Q: I am earning R2,250 a month. Can I apply for the minimum R3,500 UIF Ters benefit? 

A: Yes, if as an employee you earn below the minimum of R3,500, you will receive R3,500 regardless of the value of your normal remuneration.

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