FIFI PETERS: The Unemployment Insurance Fund, the UIF, is working to fast-track payments to workers who couldn’t earn an income under the latest adjusted Level 4 lockdown restrictions in South Africa. This is being done through the Covid-19 Temporary Employment Relief Scheme, or Ters. Furthermore government announced that the UIF will also be supporting those that have lost their jobs as a result of the recent unrest in KZN and Gauteng.
For more details on the story I’m joined by Mzwanele Yawa, who is the chief director of the UIF. Mzwanele, Thanks so much for your time. First of all, how many applications from individuals who were impacted by adjusted Level 4 lockdowns have you received so far?
MZWANELE YAWA: So far, we’ve received 4 826 applications for lockdown Level 4 Ters.
FIFI PETERS: And of those applicants, sir, how many have been paid?
MZWANELE YAWA: Well, payment is going to start today, according to our resolutions at Nedlac. From last week it was applications to come, and now those are being processed and payments will start anywhere from three days from now.
FIFI PETERS: And will the Ters scheme also apply for adjusted Level 3?
MZWANELE YAWA: Well, no, because the categories of people we were to pay under adjusted Level 4 have all been released back into business, and into operations in terms of adjusted Level 3. So it appears that there is not yet anyone within those who was affected by Level 4 who remains affected in Level 3.
FIFI PETERS: And, Mzwanele, have you found the process to pay workers directly, as opposed to paying them through their employers, to be more efficient? Or, put differently, are you expecting it to be more efficient given that payments are in the process of being paid?
MZWANELE YAWA: Indeed, because at the moment we press ‘pay’ here, it does not go to somebody else’s account who must also press ‘pay’ to each of those persons. In the memorandum of agreement that we had at the time we were paying first to employers and then employers (should) pay the workers. We said upon receipt of the money they must at least have paid it over to the workers within three days. So you find that, depending on banks, if from our bank to that other employer’s bank it takes two or three days to reflect whereas … do we press pay today? Then there were three days to pay, adding another week or so.
But if we pay directly to the worker, the period is far shortened. So we are confident that it’s going to be more efficient.
FIFI PETERS: What about those employers who were paying their workers on time, and the full amount. Will they also have to be sidestepped this time around, and will their employees be paid directly?
MZWANELE YAWA: I hope I understand your question. I understand your question to be if an employer pays his or her workers and then claims from us, will we still pay to the workers? The answer is no. In the current regime, and precisely to make these things go faster, we have said the other method where it could go even far faster is for the employers to pay their workers and apply for us to refund them. And there they simply attach proof that they paid their workers. And when we pay, it becomes faster as well because the money just goes to the employers, the refund, and that’s it.
So the point I’m making is that employers who choose for speed of the whole process to pay their workers and claim from us, that’s very excellent. We would be happy with that. There may still be one or two employers somewhere who pay their workers other than by a bank method for some reason. And in those situations the employer paying the employees and applying for a refund from us, is even more so …. So we encouraged that.
FIFI PETERS: And how many outstanding payments are you currently sitting with from the previous Ters lockdown scheme, and when will these payments likely be made?
MZWANELE YAWA: We received a report from a task team I set up as an acting commissioner to look into that, so that we close this question once and for all. The report we have, which we have distributed, or are distributing to Nedlac for a meeting on Wednesday, is that there is not a person who applied and qualified for payment of Ters who has not been paid. Those that are said to be backlogs are employees who, some of them, when we verify either at Home Affairs, if there is such an ID, or if such a person is still alive, or such a person is not in jail, and such a person is known truly as a worker, even from Sars.
All those that failed that verification are the ones who have not been paid. We communicated with all those employers who applied, to say these people – sometimes the bank rejects this bank account. Or sometimes these people are not verifiable either at Sars or Home Affairs. Come back to us then, so that we correct it. None of them came back, which makes us conclude that, even on their side, these are not employees who legitimately should have been paid.
So in short, we have on our side no employee who qualifies for Ters and was applied for, who is still not yet paid.
FIFI PETERS: Can we move on to the applications for those who lost their jobs from the recent riots? What is the process to be followed by applicants there?
MZWANELE YAWA: We are going to communicate to employers who are polishing some things. The process we want to use is where we give to the employer a spreadsheet or such system where each employer enters the details of their worker, and sends a total to us. We have seen that as (more) efficient in the test system than if we have each of the employees themselves applying, because some of them may have had their documents and related … affected in the situation. So we’re going to ask employers to do the same – apply for their workers, send it to us because we get a bulk application. If there is a clarification to make on the application we deal with one person, which is the employer, who knows and has got information and everything that we may need about each worker who works for them. And that’s going to be faster. We’re also using that to avoid people standing in queues, because then queues in our labour centres and such places become a risk of a spreader of Covid.
So if the employer applies for them, we are confident we’re going to move as fast as we do when we pay Ters. So yes, employers must apply for the employees.
FIFI PETERS: And how long is this support likely to last?
MZWANELE YAWA: This support is likely in terms of the Unemployment Insurance Act, because we are using your credits, for lack of a better word, as your savings. Was this an insurance? The access – you can be paid under that scheme up to a year if we have not yet got a different employment. So the hope is that between the time you start to receive, if your credits are equal to a payment for a year, the longest is a year. And of course, if by the end of a year you didn’t get a job, then that’s where it can end. But if you get a job earlier than that, you still keep your savings, and then we stop paying you because now you are in employment. So in short, the longest is a year, but it depends on your credits.
FIFI PETERS: All right. Thanks so much for your time. We’ll leave it there. Mzwanele Yawa, the chief director of the UIF.