Workers at a tomato plant in Limpopo (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)
  • Covid-19 TERS applications for more than 725,000 workers are still unpaid by the UIF.
  • Government is blaming employees for not submitting the correct details, but companies are fighting back.
  • One industry expert says the process has been diabolical.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

With applications for R3.2 billion in coronavirus payouts to more than 725,000 workers still left unpaid, employers and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) are at loggerheads about who’s to blame.

Workers who are put on leave, have been laid off temporarily, or whose employers can’t afford to pay their full salaries due to the coronavirus crisis are entitled to Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) payouts.

The UIF is blaming employees for not submitting the right information as part of their applications, while businesses say workers are not being paid due to UIF ineptitude.

“We are perturbed at the suggestion that employers should carry the blame for employees not receiving their TERS benefits timeously, when the administrative system has proven so grossly unreliable,” says Rob Legh, chairperson of the law firm Bowmans, on behalf of Business for South Africa (B4SA), an organisation convened amid the crisis.

Many companies have contacted Business Insider with complaints about the UIF Ters application process, and payments.

These range from applications not being processed or paid, to some applications being denied without explanation and a general failure to get a response from the UIF.

A survey among the 10,000 members of the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) showed that 21% of companies still haven’t received TERS payments for April. Of the companies which did get money, only 55% were paid in full.

“The UIF process has been diabolical,” says Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa. Alberts says many of the association’s members have also not received payments – with one top restaurant getting confirmation that the UIF paid out money, which never arrived in its account.

The tourism industry has also expressed frustration about the TERS payments, while a recent survey among South Africa’s architects showed 40% of applicants did not receive TERS payments.

The online application system is extremely user-unfriendly, and the UIF call centre operators are not adequately equipped to resolve many of the, often technical, queries that come from employers, says B4SA. B4SA offered expert technical assistance to the UIF at the outset of the TERS, “some of which was eventually taken up”.

But it says that there was a breakdown in UIF systems, which means that almost all who have been paid so far had to wait until mid-June for their May payments due

“The pressure that employers have felt from employees due to the late payment of their TERS benefit was exacerbated by the Minister and the UIF Commissioner blaming employers for the delays which were the consequences of the fund’s system breakdowns. We do not believe that this is fair,” says Legh

This week, the Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said that “outstanding details” from companies were the reason the 750,000 workers have not yet been paid.

He also said some companies did not pay all of the TERS money to their workers, and others loaned money to staff illegally. Auditors have been appointed to investigate these accusations.

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