In response to the Coronavirus crisis and the National Shut Down, we publish below information that may be relevant to employers at this time covering a number of measures aimed at providing relief to distressed companies and employers. Should you require any assistance or advice please contact us.
TERS BENEFIT APPLICATION PROCESS
THE COVID-19 UIF BENEFICIARY PROCESS (TEMPORARY EMPLOYERS RELIEF SCHEME (TERS))
As communicated previously, the TERS has been established to compensate employees who have lost income due to COVID-19. The benefit is available to Employees who are laid off as a result of COVID-19 and do not receive a salary or are receiving a reduced salary.
Who Can Submit a Claim?
- Employers on behalf of their employees
- Associations on behalf of their members
Who will receive Payment?
The application process provides an election as to whether the benefit is paid directly to Employees or Employers. Accordingly, payment can either be made to the Employee or Employer or, if application processed through bargaining council, to the bargaining council. For employers employing less than 10 employees, they must include details of the individual bank accounts of their employees. The UIF is required to pay the benefits directly into the employees’ bank accounts.
How much will be Paid?
The UIF calculates the benefit as per the directive namely:
- On a sliding scale starting at 38% of the maximum threshold of R17 712. 00 (or R6 730. 56) to 60% of an employee’s salary; or
- If the employee’s benefit determined in terms of the income replacement sliding scale falls below the minimum wage of R3 500. 00, the employee will be paid a benefit equal to that minimum wage.
In other words, the most an employee will receive is the amount of R6 730. 56 for those employees earning equal to or above the maximum threshold of R17 712. 00. Employees earning less than this maximum threshold will earn, on a sliding scale, an amount down to the minimum being the national minimum wage of R3 500. 00.
The Process to Claim UIF
The Employer must apply by reporting the total or partial closure to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Employer will receive an automatic response outlining the application process and the documents and information that is required. The required documents are listed below.
STEP 1: KEY DOCUMENTS REQUIRED
- National Disaster Payment Excel Template
- This is a prescribed template Annexure 1 (click here) that will require critical information from the Employer. Some of the details which need to be included are: details of the Employer; the period of closure; the list of employees and their dates of employment and identification numbers.
- UIF requires the Excel template file to be converted to CSV format – Annexure 2 (click here) for relevant guidelines on how to do this.
- Refer to Annexure 3 (click here) to view sample of what the CSV file needs to look like.
- Prepare and complete the list of all employees with all mandatory information as per the template.
- Employees bank details must be inserted.
- Annual leave does not accrue where an Employee is laid off.
- The Termination Date required to be provided as part of the application process is the last date for which the employee was paid. The earliest Termination Date is 25 March 2020, the date on which the Scheme was promulgated.
- Employer Account Information
- Employer applying must complete Annexure 4 (click here).
- Complete the MOA which is an agreement between UIF, Bargaining Council and Employer. Alternatively, the Employer can electronically accept the standard terms.
- The MOA records the terms and conditions for the implementation of the TERS by the UIF and any employer who submits a claim under the TERS.
- This must only be completed by employers that have more than 10 employees.
- Fill in the Employer’s name on page 1. Initial each page. Sign in full on the last page.
- Choose the MOA relevant to your role in the process
- Confirmation of Employer bank account details
- No need to certify.
- Proof of remuneration
- Proof of remuneration to employees in terms of pay-roll/bank statements for the previous 3 months.
- Letter of Undertaking
- Completed and signed Letter of Undertaking Annexure 9 (click here)
- Letter of Authority
- Completed and signed Letter of Authority granting authority to an individual specified to lodge a claim on behalf of the Employer Annexure 10 (click here)
STEP 2: SUBMISSION PROCESS All documents must be submitted to UIF via the dedicated mailbox Covid19UIFclaims@labour.gov.za and will be subject to verification.
STEP 3: CONCLUSION
The UIF COVID19 system will attend to all applications and thereafter send you an approval or rejection letter.
STEP 4: SECOND OF FURTHER INSTALMENTS
- The relevant template must be updated, where applicable.
- The period of further closure must be specified (up to maximum of one month).
- The details of employees no longer in employment provided.
- Bank statements confirming previous payments provided.
- Payroll reconciling payments to employees to amount paid by UIF provided.
Disclaimer: This is a guideline only and may change as the relevant regulations change.
AMENDMENT TO TERS REGULATIONS
As part of its effort to support businesses Government implemented a Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) under the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) in terms of Regulations published on 25 March 2020. Details of TERS can be found under SHORT TERM UIF BENEFITS OFFERED TO DISTRESSED COMPANIES (see below).
A number of queries arose from the Regulations published on 25 March 2020 including:
- Must the employer close for its employees to qualify for a COVID-19 benefit? What about partial closures?
- Will employees still be entitled to the benefit (or part thereof) where the employer chooses and is able to pay a reduced salary?
- Will employees still be entitled to the benefit where they are placed on short time?
- What constitutes a business in distress?
The Department of Employment and Labour published amendments to the regulations on 8 April 2020 which confirm that the benefit is available where there is only a partial closure to a business and also where the employee may have received a reduced salary. These amended regulations provide that:
- Should an employer close it operations or part of its operations for a three month or lessor period, affected employees will qualify for a COVID-19 benefit; and
- Employees will be entitled to receive COVID-19 benefits provided that the total benefit, together with any additional payment by the employer in any period, is not more than the remuneration the employee would ordinarily receive for working during the period.
In addition, the requirement that a business must show that it is in distress for its employees to qualify appears to have been removed.
SHORT TERM UIF BENEFITS OFFERED TO DISTRESSED COMPANIES
What is a TERS?
The Presidential address on 23 March 2020 announcing the lockdown placed employers in uncharted territory. The lockdown period commenced at midnight on Thursday, 26 March 2020 and continues, at least for the moment until midnight, Thursday 30 April 2020. As part of its effort to support businesses Government has implemented a Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) under the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). The recent amendment to the Regulation has confirmed that the total or partial closure of a business due to COVID-19 will meet the qualifying criteria. The benefit is available for a period of 3 months or less. The requirement that a business must show financial distress appears to have been removed through the recent amendments.
- The normal rule, applicable to UIF, that for every 4 days worked, the employee accumulates a one day credit will not apply.
- The benefits will only pay for the cost of salary for the employees during the temporary closure of the business.
- The TERS allowance is payable monthly to each participating employee and the salary to be taken into account when calculating the benefits will be capped at R17, 712.00 per month.
- Where an employee earns more than R17 712.00 per month, the employee will be paid in terms of the income replacement rate sliding scale (38%-60%) as provided in the Unemployment Insurance Act (“UI Act”) which will be applied to the capped amount of R17 712.00 and not the employee’s actual salary.
- Should the income of the employee (in terms of the income replacement sliding scale) fall below R 3500.00, the employee will be paid a replacement income equal to the fixed amount of R3 500.00; and
- Qualifying employees will receive a benefit calculated in terms of section 12 and 13 of the UI Act, provided that an employee shall receive a benefit of no less than R3 500.00.
An employee who is being paid by the employer in this period is not entitled to this benefit.
To qualify, a company will be required to meet the following requirements:
- The company must be registered with the UIF;
- The company must comply with the application procedure for the financial relief scheme; and
- The company’s partial or complete closure must be directly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Where an employee is in quarantine for 14 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the employee will qualify for an illness benefit.
- Confirmation in the form of a letter from both the employer and the employee must be submitted together with the application as proof that the employee was in an agreed precautionary self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Where the employee is quarantined for more than 14 days, a medical certificate from a medical practitioner must be submitted together with continuation form of payment.
- The employer shall apply by reporting their closure to email box Covid19ters@labour.gov.za and there shall be an automatic response outlining the application process.
- The employer shall be required to furnish the UIF with the following completed documents:
- Letter of authority from the company; and
- Signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) from the employer or Bargaining Council with the UIF.
The Directive commences immediately and shall remain operational for 3 (three) months or until they are withdrawn by the Minister, whichever, comes first.
ROLE OF THE COMPENSATION FUND
On 20 March 2020 a notice was issued by the Compensation Commissioner confirming the position of the Compensation Fund in circumstances of occupationally acquired COVID -19.
The notice applies to employees, as defined by the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (“COIDA”), who acquire COVID-19 in the course and scope of their employment.
For COVID-19 to be diagnosed as “occupationally acquired” the following factors must be relied upon:
- The employee must have been exposed to someone who had COVID-19;
- The employee must have been diagnosed as per the WHO guidelines;
- The employee must have been on an approved work-related trip in a high risk area;
- The employee must be in a “presumed” high risk work environment where the transmission of COVID-19 is prevalent, i.e. hospital; and/or
- A link between work exposure and development of symptoms supported by a chronology of events.
a. Temporary total disablement (TTD)
- An employee who is temporarily disabled with COVID-19 shall be paid for the period of absence, but only up to a maximum of 30 days.
b. Suspected and unconfirmed Case
- The Compensation Fund will not be liable to compensate employees who are on self-quarantine, whether on medical practitioner’s instructions or not. The employer will be liable to remunerate these employees for the period of absence.
c. Permanent Disablement
- The Commissioner has reserved the right to assess each case on a case-by-case basis to determine if there is any permanent disablement.
- Interestingly, the notice is silent on who bears liability in cases where an employee is permanently disabled. It is however reasonable to assume that the Fund will bear the costs.
- The Fund will be responsible for all reasonable burial expenses, widow’s and dependant’s pensions shall be payable, where applicable, if an employee dies as a result of COVID-19.
- The following documents should be submitted to the Compensation Commissioner or the employer individually liable or the mutual association concerned:a. Employer’s Report of an Occupational Disease (W.CL.1); b. Notice of an Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation (W.CL.14); c. Exposure and Medical Questionnaire; d. First Medical Report in respect of an Occupational Disease (W.CL.22) indicating U07.1 as the ICD-10 and/or any other appropriate employment history which may include any information that may be helpful to the Compensation Commissioner; e. A Medical Report on the employee’s symptoms that details the history, establishes a diagnosis of COVID-19 and laboratory results and chest radiographs where appropriate or any other information to the claim; f. For each consultation, a Progress Medical Report (W.CL.26); g. Final Medical Report in respect of an Occupational Disease (W.CL.26) when the employee’s condition has reached IMM; and h. An affidavit by the employee if employer cannot be traced or will not timeously supply a W.CL.1, where possible.
Online claims can be made through the following platforms and the correct ICD-10 code -U07.1 must be cited:
- Compensation Fund: CompEasy (labour.gov.za);
- Rand Mutual Assurance: CompCare(randmutual.co.za); and
- Federated Employers Mutual: IMS (https://roe.fem.co.za)
Submission of manual claims for COVID-19 must be sent to these email addresses:
- Compensation Fund: email@example.com or phone 0860 105 350;
- Rand Mutual Assurance: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 086 022 2132; and
- Federated Employers Mutual: FEM-Registry@fema.co.za or phone 011 359 4300.
- The Office of the Compensation Commissioner shall consider and adjudicate all claims.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any assistance.