RYK VAN NIEKERK: Over the past few weeks, Moneyweb has received numerous complaints from listeners and readers about the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). They claim they’ve been waiting for months for the UIF payments. These claims relate to maternity and actual retrenchment benefits, and not the Ters (Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme) payments to individuals who have lost their jobs or a portion of their income due to Covid-19 regulations. In one case, a listener has been waiting for almost a year for a payment related to his retrenchment.
Makhosonke Buthelezi is on the line. He is the spokesperson for the UIF. Makhosonke, thank you so much for joining me. Is there a backlog of payments due to people who have submitted non-Ters-related claims?
MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: Thank you. Good evening, Ryk. Yes and no. Yes in a sense that, if the claim is complete, it has everything that we need. We are able to process it. In instances where a claim was submitted but there are certain things that are missing on the claim we are unable to process it, and a client who has submitted that claim would then think that maybe the delay is from us. I can just tabulate some of the reasons why some of their claims are delayed. Should I?
RYK VAN NIEKERK: Please do, please do.
MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: The first one of late is that there are instances where a company has claimed for Ters, maybe in the first three months of Ters, and thereafter the employee or the worker was retrenched. When they go to claim for the unemployment benefit, you find that on the system it reflects the person as still receiving the Ters benefit. If that’s the case, then the claim won’t be processed. That’s where we ask the employers that they should provide a letter to their employee so that he can produce it, or just inform us online, through the normal declaration, that the employee is no longer employed; therefore please process the normal benefit. That is one of the main reasons we’ve also noticed with the maternity claims.
The second issue is the issue of declarations, where employers don’t, as required by the law on the seventh of each and every month, declare their employees to UIF. That will solve a whole lot of problems because, if they are not declared with the fund, we are unable to process the claim. Post declaration means we need to close the employment gap from your side. So there are numerous reasons – but I hear you want to come in.
RYK VAN NIEKERK: Yes. Some of the complaints I’ve received emanate from last year, where somebody was retrenched and they’ve submitted documentation, they received a confirmation from the UIF that everything was in order, but payment is just not forthcoming.
I also spoke to a labour broker, who submitted some of these claims on behalf of some of her clients, and she says seven out of 10 claims she has submitted really experienced delays in payment – in some cases for more than a year. Can you shed light on that side?
MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: Yes. Talking about labour brokers, we are not treating them differently than a ‘Makhosonke’ [direct claimant] who goes and submits a claim. They’re all subjected to the same rules. And with them what we have also noticed is that, these things that I’m talking about, they are not even able to close the gaps, for example.
Let me just say generally one of the challenges that we are facing as the fund is that, one, if you submit claims online. The system now is overwhelmed because it was built to process X number of claims, but with the increase in unemployment, there’s been that problem – that it is now overwhelmed. It’s taking more than what it was built for.
Secondly, people look to claim online, just quickly, and some of them have forgotten their passwords and all that. Resetting the passwords involves certain information that must be submitted to the call centre. On that side as well, the call centre is overwhelmed with both those queries and Ters queries.
I’m tabulating some of the challenges that we are facing as the fund. If you go and submit at the labour centre, the issue there is that some people are working at home and we are taking X number of people per day. Obviously we would normally assist clients with things, and where what is outstanding is from the employer we’ll call the employer. You’ll find that now we’re unable to do that because we want to process as many clients as we can. So where we have to call, we put those aside so that we can attend to the ones that are a hundred percent, and then we only do those. So we do have those challenges at the call centre.
Now, given that you will then have an issue where a claim will take almost a year – one, I think the issue is that lack of interaction and regular feedback with the client is missing under the current circumstances, because some of the clients will submit everything (and that) will be fine. They will even get a message that says your claim has been sent to the assessor for payment. But they still wait. The reason is that maybe there’s one thing (missing). A common document that is missing is the continuation of payment form, which triggers the payment, whereas before the person would know, when going to the call centre, that the customer service person, our officer, will tell them that, okay, now that you’ve submitted this, this is the next step, this is what you need to do.
So there is also that challenge that obviously we should acknowledge.
RYK VAN NIEKERK: I can appreciate that your systems are being overwhelmed, because you’ve been tasked with paying Ters claims, which the system obviously wasn’t built for. But is it a case of the Ters payments being prioritised above the normal retrenchment claims and payouts, and maternity leave claims?
MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: Not at all. That’s not the case because, as I’m talking to you, today we paid about R93.3 million of the normal things for covering about 19 000 or so beneficiaries. That is of the normal claims. So it’s not because we prioritise the benefits, because Ters payments are done at head office here in Pretoria, and the claims are processed online, unlike the normal benefits where they are first done at 126 provincial offices that we have, and done both online as well as physically.
So I think it’s just that, one, as I’ve already said, it’s the issue of not having the full staff complement at the labour centres. And secondly limiting the number of people that you can take at labour centres, as well as our U-filing system for those who are submitting online claims. We have a lot of them now, seeing that there are limitations with the physical submission of claims at labour centres, so many people go for online claims.
What I also need to mention with online claims is that people also forget the UI19 form [the form used by employers to submit particulars of their workers to the fund’s database], which is critical for the processing of the claims, to put them up online so that we can be able then to do proper assessment and be able to pay.
RYK VAN NIEKERK: Makhosonke, thank you so much for your time tonight. That was Makhosonke Buthelezi, the spokesperson for the UIF.