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Guide to UIF and other Covid-19 options

In Article Archive, Article Archive - Home, Article Archive - Teazer, Labour News, Labour News Teazer by Jan Truter73 Comments

(UPDATED: 24 July 2020)

See latest updates in red

Much confusion has arisen with the introduction of the Covid-19 temporary employee / employer relief scheme (C19 TERS), previously referred to as a “National Disaster Benefit”, in terms of a directive that was gazetted on 26 March 2020.

C19 TERS is not the only UIF relief option available in the case of temporary lay-offs. Some employers who laid off their employees without pay in March may have submitted claims under the UIF ‘Reduced working time’ option. However, as discussed below this is the appropriate route to go after the termination of C19TERS relief has come to an end.

[NOTE: The confusion has by and large been caused by a Easy- Aid Guide for Employers to access UIF benefits that seems to confuse C19 TERS document requirements with that of the UIF ‘Reduced working time’ option.]

So, what is the difference between these two options? May employers apply for both?

TEMPORARY LAY-OFF OPTIONS

1. UIF ‘Reduced working time’ option

Although the C19 TERS (described under point 2 below) will enjoy priority for from the end of March to the end of 15 August 2020, the ‘reduced working time’ option has been, and continues to be, available to employers and employees.

The ‘reduced working time’ option was originally intended for employees who have to work short time. This benefit was introduced fairly recently (2018) in the following terms:
“A contributor employed in any sector who loses his or her income due to reduced working time, despite being employed, is entitled to benefits if the contributor’s total income falls below the benefit level that the contributor would have received if he or she had become wholly unemployed, subject to that contributor having enough credits.”

(The Government Gazette is available at the link below).

It has been confirmed that this scheme is not only available to employees that work reduced working hours, but also available to employees that are on temporary lay-off without pay. The following documents need to be submitted:

The following documents need to be submitted:

  • UI 19 and UI 2.7 (completed by employer)
  • UI 2.1 (application form)
  • UI 2.8 (bank form completed by bank)
  • Letter from employer confirming reduced work time (or lay-off) is due to the Coronavirus
  • Copy of ID document

Also see the “UIF Easy Guide for Electronic claims”

(The UIF Easy Guide and the relevant forms are available at the link below).

Features of the ‘reduced working time’ option:

  • The claim is subject to the employee having enough credits.
  • The claim is by the employee (with the assistance of the employer).
  • The practical challenges of obtaining and submitting forms, have been facilitated by an online option (see “UIF Easy Guide for Electronic claims” available at the link below).
  • The benefit will be calculated in terms of the income replacement rate sliding scale of 38 % (for high earners) up to 60 % (for low earners) as provided in the Unemployment Insurance Act, subject to the maximum threshold as determined from time to time.
  • It is possible that lower earning employees may get out less than the minimum wage under this dispensation.
  • Payment is made by the UIF directly into the employee’s bank account.
  • Subject to available credits the employee can (theoretically) receive this benefit for up to 12 months.

2. Covid-19 temporary employee / employer relief scheme (C19 TERS)
     (Currently only be available for claims up to the end of 15 August 2020)

This scheme is intended to provide emergency relief to enable employers to pay employees who are temporarily laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The directive issued on 26 March 2020 was amended on 6 April 2020 (GG dated 8 April 2020) on 16 April 2020 (GG dated 5 May 2020) and again on 25 May 2020. The most important amendments appear from the following (underlined portions have been inserted through in the 6 April amendment):

“… in view of social distancing and in order to avoid in person individual employee applications at Departmental offices for the Covid-19 benefit during lockdown, should an employer as a direct result of Covid-19 pandemic close its operations, or a part of the operations, for a 3 (three) month or lesser period the employer must apply in accordance with clause 5.1 and 5.2 for Covid-19 benefits for and on behalf of its employees.”

and

“temporary lay-off means a reduction in work followinga temporary closure of business, whether total or partial, due to Covid-19 pandemic for the period of the National Disaster.”

These amendments now clearly confirm that an employer does not have to close its operations completely to qualify for benefits under C19 TERS.

The amendments to the directive on 16 April 2020 provide more clarity on how annual leave and advances paid by employers can be dealt with – see discussion under ANNUAL LEAVE, ADVANCES AND LOANS below.

(The directive, as well as amendments thereto, are available at the link below.)

Features of the COVID-19 TERS option:

  • It is a separate benefit scheme (separate from normal UIF benefits with its own set of forms and requirements) which cannot be claimed at the same time as the UIF ‘reduced working time’ benefit.
  • It applies where the employer has temporarily closed its operations, completely or partially, as a direct result of Covid-19.
  • Claims are not dependent on an employee having any UIF credits and will be entitled to benefits irrespective of how long they have contributed.
  • The employer (rather than the employee) submits a claim for UIF.
  • Payment would in most instances be made directly to the employer, who would then pay the money over to the employees.
  • Employees may submit claims individually if employers have failed or refused to so.
  • The definition of ‘workers’ has been extended (in the 25 May amendment) to accommodate employees who were unable to claim merely as a result of circumstances beyond their control (e.g. employer failed to register registering them or did not pay contributions over to the UIF).
  • Online process: Send blank email to Covid19ters@labour.gov.za and you receive an automated response with the relevant forms and other requirements. You are directed you to an online portal where details can be submitted (The online portal can be found at https://uifecc.labour.gov.za/covid19/).
  • All employers have to accept the terms of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the UIF. This is done as part of automated on-line process.
  • The requirement for the employer to open a dedicated UIF bank account, or to clear an existing account, has been scrapped. It would nevertheless be useful to have a separate account in order to track all payments relating to Covid-19 benefits.
  • The benefit will be calculated in terms of the income replacement rate sliding scale of 38 % (for high earners) up to 60 % (for low earners) as provided in the Unemployment Insurance Act, subject to the maximum threshold which is currently R17712. The maximum benefit for a high earner would be 38 % of R17712 a month, which amounts to about R6 730 a month. This has been confirmed by an amendment to paragraph 3.4 of the directive (available at the link below).
  • After correcting errors in their system, the UIF has been to ‘topping up’ payments made by the employer. In many instances (especially claim submissions done earlier in April) employers are still waiting for errors to be corrected.
  • For the duration of the shutdown or a maximum period of three months, the benefit will be not less than the minimum wage (referred to as a ‘flat rate’ of R3500 per month). After the expiry of this 3-month period, an employee may only be able to claim normal UIF ‘reduced working hours’ benefits which would be based on the above sliding scale and amount to less than the minimum wage.
  • The UIF has sped up the turnaround time to process applications, indicating that it “is less than 10 days with complete, valid and accurate documents.”

(Labourwise HR offers an administrative service to assist employers with UIF COVID-19 TERS submissions. Employers who are interested in making use of this service can Contact us.)

(The Covid-19 guidelines are available at the link below.)

Which UIF benefit option do I choose?

The Covid-19 TERS is intended for as emergency relief with a relatively quick turnaround time. It is more beneficial and the UIF has become much more efficient in processing claims. All affected employers, large and small, have been encouraged to make use of Covid-19 TERS for as long as it has been or may be available. Access to this relief has been extended until 15 August 2020.

Many employers will not be able to resume business fully or at all for some time. It may be necessary for the lay-off or reduced working hours for employees to continue. In these circumstances, employees will still have access to UIF ‘reduced working time’ benefits.

ANNUAL LEAVE, ADVANCES AND LOANS

There have been conflicting reports on what employers are entitled to do with regard to leave.

In our view the point of departure is this: The lock-down has been imposed by Government. Neither employers nor employees are to blame. Employees who have to stay at home are unable to tender their services due to the lock-down. They are not entitled to be paid. So, what measures are available to mitigate the financial deprivation suffered by employees during the lock-down?

There seem to be the following options:

  1. Employees take the annual leave that is due to them.
  2. UIF benefits (UIF ‘reduced working time’ benefit or Covid-19 TERS benefit).
  3. Employers pay their employees in part or in full, if they have the resources to do so (even though they have no obligation).
  4. Employers grant their employees loans/ advances.

What to do with annual leave?

Employers may already have an arrangement in place that employees use their annual leave credits during the lock-down. It would have the advantage of providing immediate financial relief during the lock-down.

In terms of a further amendment to the directive issued 16 April 2020 (gazetted on 5 May 2020), employers who have required employees to take annual leave during the lock-down, may use C19TERS benefits to credit the employees’ leave proportionately (For example: An employee took 10 annual leave days during the lock-down; the employer then successfully claims 50% of her pay for those 10 days in C19TERS benefits; the employer may then take those benefits for itself and credit her with 5 days’ annual leave). Employers should keep a proper record of these calculations for auditing purposes.

Employers who have already paid out leave, but have not submitted claims for C19TERS benefits in respect of the leave period, should still be able to do so.

Loans and advances

The amendment of 17 April also urges employers to pay employees in advance and then to recover (i.e. “reimburse or set off”) such payment from the CT19TERS benefits once these are paid out. (A guideline on how to calculate C19TERS benefits is available at the link below).

Even though the directive authorises a recovery equal to the COVID-19 TERS benefits, we would nevertheless recommend that employers get employees to sign an acknowledgement of debt to enable the employer to recover any advances paid from the employees’ remuneration in future. Again, employers should keep proper records of how payments are allocated.

(Examples of an acknowledgement of debt – in English and Afrikaans – are available to Labourwise subscribers).

COIDA AND SICK LEAVE

Covid-19 has been declared an occupational disease. If an employee is absent due to contracting the Coronavirus out of and in the course of his or her employment, it will not be regarded as sick leave. Instead it would be covered in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act of 1993 (COIDA). The employee must as soon as possible after the commencement of a disease give written notice thereof to his or her employer or to the employer where he or she was last employed, and he or she may also give written notice of the said disease in the prescribed manner to the compensation commissioner. Thereafter, a further process needs to be followed by the employer and a medical practitioner (For more details see our article at https://www.labourwise.co.za/labour-articles/covid-19-sick-leave-crisis-looming)

If, however, it cannot be shown that the Coronavirus was contracted in the course of the employee’s employment, any period of absence as a result of being infected will be regarded as sick leave.

OTHER UIF OPTIONS

Illness benefits for 14-day quarantine period

This UIF benefit is available to employees who are quarantined for 14 days due the Coronavirus (i.e. “special leave”), irrespective whether the employee has contracted the virus or not. No medical certificate is needed for the first 14 days but the employer and employee have to submit a letter of proof that they have agreed to “special leave”. In addition to the letter referred to above, there is certain other documentation that has to be submitted (See resources at the link below). This form of relief will only be available until 15 August 2020.

Death benefits

In the unfortunate event that an employee passes away, certain beneficiaries may apply for benefits (See “UIF Easy-Aid Guide” at the link below). The following documents need to be submitted:

  • UI 19 and UI 53 (completed by employer)
  • UI 2.5 or UI 2.6
  • Death certificate
  • UI 2.8 (bank form completed by bank)
  • Copies of ID documents of applicant and the deceased

OTHER ‘TERS’ BENEFITS (NON COVID-19 RELATED)

There is another temporary relief benefit scheme (TERS) that was originally introduced towards the end of 2019. It was introduced to assist employers in distress, in order to avoid retrenchments. This scheme – which is overseen by the CCMA – is not to be confused with the Covid-19 TERS scheme.

This scheme does not envisage normal lay-offs. Instead employees are laid off work for a period while they receive training, along with a training allowance. It involves a rather cumbersome process (e.g. requires the submission of annual financial statements, turnaround plan, etc.). While employers should still be able to submit an application for relief in terms of this scheme, it is unlikely to enjoy priority during the current Covid-19 crisis. (See guideline at the link below).

UPDATES

There have been rapid developments surrounding the Covid-19 crisis and the relief options available. Amidst the confusion, we are doing our best to interpret the regulatory changes in a way that makes sense. The situation may change from day to day and the views expressed above should not be regarded as legal advice.

This document will be updated as matters develop. We will alert our readers of any changes.

For access to the updated documents, forms and other relevant information referred to above, please click here.

Jan Truter for www.labourwise.co.za

Disclaimer: The material above is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Neither the author nor the publisher accepts responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from reliance on information contained in this article.

Comments

  1. hi, I wish to get clarity on normal UIF benefits.
    I was retrenched in June 2019 and qualified for 12month benefit
    The rate per day is a maximum of R221.2787.
    My question : Is this rate applied for the full 12 months or does it change to a lower rate during this period.

    1. Author

      As far as we are aware, the normal UIF benefit rates should remain unchanged.

  2. Please advise…..I am a locum pharmacist and my shifts have been cancelled since start of lockdown. One company I locum for refuses to claim from UIF on my behalf since they say they never shutdown.
    When I try and claim on Labour dept website I get blocked since only employer can claim…..please advise
    Thanks

  3. Pse help must an essential company work is full work capacity during lockdown. If I did not work can they fire me because their business is suffering. Are they allowed to claim Ters for me as they say that essential companies can not claim Ters because the were open

    1. Author

      If the employer (even an essential services company) closes partially because of Covid-19, resulting in an employee not working or working shorter hours, there should be access to C19TERS relief.

      1. I was retrenched beginning of june and I picked up that the company has applied for UIF TERS for I don’t understand how cause I’m not laid off temporarily or I’m not put on short time why are they still claiming TERs when I’m no longer part of their staff

        1. Author

          IT sounds like fraud. If you are sure about your facts, I suggest you report it via the Fraud hotline – 08600 22 194

  4. I work for a daycare, i only received 80% of my salary, can i claim the 20% via u filling personaly and submit the documents, i have been paying uif for 8 years.

  5. You got tested for corona and where put under home quaritine for 12 -13days can your employee give u unpayd leave because you where absent because u where under quaritine. Must the employer apply for the uif covid benefits or must their get their normal salary from work

    1. Author

      There is a specific illness benefit for self-quarantine and the forms are available for free on our website. See discussion in the article

  6. I have paid my staff for 7 weeks in full and applied for the CovidTERS option for them, which we are hoping to receive. In the meantime I need to give them a UI-19 stating that the company is temporary closed but the ‘reason for termination’ on the UI-19 does not offer a temporary closed Termination Code. Has UIF issued one I could use – otherwise I must use 14 (buisness closed) which I do not want to do, because as soon as we get work in I will get my staff back in to produce.

    1. Author

      You shouldn’t need to complete a UI19 if you have claimed C19TERS benefits. The UI19 is only needed if you submit a normal UIF (reduced working time) claim.

  7. Hi , please advise on what happens if an employer does not apply the relief fund on behalf of an employee

  8. Good day.
    I would just like to know what the amended/new Income Replacement Rate formula will be during COVID19. Thank you in advance

  9. Gooday

    I have resigned from my work to start at a new company, started on the 23 march and the lockdown came in now im at home no work no pay and company say they cant claim uif for me.. Is this true do i not qualify for any form of uif..

    Thank you

    1. Author

      To claim C19TERS benefits, you would have had to be employed by 15 March. You should qualify for normal UIF (reduced working time) benefits, though

  10. Can your boss ask you to work for the hours the uif (ters) is paying you

    1. Author

      Yes, the benefits are meant to help the employer to pay you if the business is affected by Covid-19.

  11. Morning

    I need some information for persons who are purely commission earners. Car Sales, Financial and Estate Agents. Can any of these persons claims for TERS, or is there any financial assistance they can apply for to help

    1. Author

      If they are not UIF contributors, they are not entitled to any form of UIF benefits

  12. Hi

    I have resigned from my previse work early February before this outbreak of coronavirus and would off started at my new work on 01 April 2020. But know I can’t due the the National lockdown. What about people in the some situation as me, can we also claim UIF or not.

    1. Author

      If your new employer is willing to confirm that you are now an employee of theirs, you should be able to claim or they could do so on your behalf.

      1. Im also in the same situation. Resigned in Feb and started my new job in March. Still on probation and not yet on the payroll. How do I proceed

        1. Author

          If you started in March, you be registered for you UIF and you should qualify for C19TERS relief. If you miss tomorrow’s deadline for C19TERS claims for April, you should still be able to claims normal UIF (reduced working hours).

  13. Good day I work in a trucking company with over 160 employees and we have been on the shutdown as per the covid 10 how do I go about applying for the ui19 benefit for all employees my email

    1. Author

      Clarify with your employer which route they are going with UIF claims. Is it UIF ‘Reduced working time'(where you have to claim with the employer’s assistance) or Covid-19 TERS (where the employer claims on your behalf)?

  14. Thank-you for the very helpful info. I would like to ask a question of the above statement copied below:
    “Covid-TERS also seems well suited for employers who foresee that they will not be able to pay their employees in full for a significant period (up to 3 months). The UIF intends to help ‘top up’ salaries to the extent allowed by the income replacement rate sliding scale (but only if this has been agreed upfront with the UIF).”
    1. Assume an employee earns R5,000 per month and I put them on 25% Short Time ie pay them R1,250 for 25% work.
    2. Assume I don’t pay them at all, but do not retrench them (post lockdown)
    Thks
    Charl

    1. Author

      If your employees are laid off during the lock-down (and beyond) you should be able to claim. If they are not paid at all the income replacement sliding scale will apply. If you pay a part of their remuneration, there should be a top-up in accordance with a formula (not quite sure whether or to what extent the normal sliding scale will be affected), but it is conceivable that an employee could get up to 100% of his/her normal pay.

  15. Hi Jan Truter. I Am not able to make UIF contribution this month due to lock down. Will this affect my employees claims.

    1. Author

      If you have been compliant and your current inability to contribute to UIF is due to staff being laid off without pay, it should not affect their claims.

  16. With the lockdown in place,are the UIF processing centres open for business or can I apply on line with my documents.

  17. Good day If we chose the TERS 19 option does the company have to open a separate bank account or can the uif be paid directly into the employees account
    Thanks Helen

    1. Author

      If you have 10 or less employees, the UIF can pay the Covid-19TERS benefits directly into the employees’ accounts.

  18. What advise can you give to self employed people who have no form of income due to the lockdown.

  19. THANK YOU ..EXTREMELY INFORMATIVE AND VERY HELPFUL.QUESTION IS IN TERMS OF OPTION 2 COVID-19 TERS WHEN COMPLETING THE U-19 FORM MUST TERMINATION DATE (G)
    BE COMPLETED AS WELL AS REASON FOR TERMINATION (H).MY OPERATION IS CLOSED AS A RESULT OF THE LOCK DOWN I HAVE NOT LAID OFF STAFF AND I WILL CONTINUE TO OPERATE WHEN LOCK DOWN IS TERMINATED…

    1. If you are employed in two different companies; the day job is primary and night job is secondary. The question is will I be entitled from both for the benefits or not as the respective employers will be applying on my behalf, if not elaborate as to the reasons why.

      1. Author

        If you have been a UIF contributor with both employers and they have been UIF compliant, it should be possible.

  20. Everything it’s clear but how about those who are still reporting for duty during this lock-down like petrol attendants

    1. Author

      They are part of essential services and are permitted to work during the lock-down

      1. Jan pse help. Must an essential service work at full workforce and can the company claim Ters for an employee that did not work. Thanks Anette Coetzee 0810165453 anettec@corpfin.co.za

    1. Author

      The Covid-19 TERS option became available more recently. It seems to be the preferred option for most businesses that have to lay off their employees as a direct result of Coronavirus.

  21. Thank you for providing the information to all employers. Much appreciated. victor

  22. Department of labour is closed in pinetown where i near by so i fax my document who Will process them

  23. MI employee jst applyed for me an insurance fund from labour online by email without a banking details form, should I worry or not

    1. Author

      If the application was in terms of Covid-19 TERS, your employer would not have had to submit employees’ bank authorisation forms

  24. Good day. Still a little confusing. I own a daycare with 3 employees (including myself). Not sure which route to take with uif. What would be the best option. And also what is the difference between using above options and normal uif after lay-offs. Please let me know if you would be able to assist.

  25. Good day
    My employer has given me all documents regarding covid19 uif
    I have emailed all documentation to the mpumalanga email address and had not gotten any response
    I have emailed all required documentation on thursday
    How does the process work from there.

    1. Author

      All UIF processing centres are inundated. It may take some time to process. As long as you keep proof of submission.

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