The Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi has called on employers who are registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to apply for the COVID-19 benefits through the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme on behalf of their employees.
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department has issued a directive for relief to be provided to contributors who have lost income or required to take annual leave as a result of the Coronavirus breakout.
To date, the UIF has received just over 55 268 applications from employers representing about 1 601 767 employees. In total, the UIF has over 1 800 000 employers registered on its database representing more than 8-million workers.
Of the received applications, the UIF has processed 37 673 employer applications which means that 606 462 employees will receive their benefit. About 9 938 applications couldn’t be processed due to errors and the affected companies have been notified to correct their applications and resubmit. Some of the errors identified relate to incorrect banking details, making it impossible for payments to be processed.
As of today, the cumulative amount paid from April 16 to date is R1.1-billion.
“The UIF is working round the clock to meet the extraordinary volumes of requests for assistance presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 benefit scheme will provide much-needed relief to employees who have been laid off work or unable to earn an income due to COVID-19,” said Minister Nxesi.
Minister Nxesi has also acknowledged that the UIF system is under pressure as the Fund is currently experiencing extraordinary volumes of requests due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister says the department is in discussion with other public entities and the private sector to build additional capacity in order to fast track the processing of applications and payments thereof.
“We have acknowledged that our system was not designed to accommodate the increased volumes of requests that we are witnessing due to the COVID-19. We have already taken steps to mitigate this risk. We have asked the South African Revenue Service to work with us to resolve the backlog we are currently experiencing. SARS has responded positively and they are sending a team to work with the UIF to ensure that we distribute funds to deserving beneficiaries as swift and cost-efficient as possible. We have equally engaged other private sector companies to work with UIF to enhance the capacity of our IT system to respond to the growing number of requests,” said Minister Nxesi.
Besides the COVID-19 TERS benefits, the department continues to pay normal benefits. To this end, people who have already been approved to claim do not need to phone or go online. The continuation benefits will be paid at specified dates.
As part of being more responsive to claimants, the UIF call centre which initially had 75 agents, has increased its capacity and now has 200 agents manning the toll-free number (0800 030 007). More call centre agents will be added should the need arise.
“These are important interventions that would go a long way towards alleviating some of the challenges we have been experiencing.
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The President has enjoined all of us to ensure that citizens are not unnecessarily inconvenienced as a result of the pandemic.
As the Department of Employment and Labour we realise the critical role we have to play and we are encouraged by the spirit of solidarity both in the public and private sector and we are doing our utmost best to ease the hardship on workers,” concluded Minister Nxesi.