The Unemployment Insurance Fund (“UIF”) has shed some light on what will happen to existing and outstanding COVID-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (“TERS”) applications and payments, particularly over the festive season. We discuss the must-knows for employers below.
COVID-19 TERS payment re-runs for April – 15 September 2020 period
The UIF dedicated this entire week to re-run payments for the period between April to September 2020 and will repeat this for all lockdown periods on 19 December to clear the backlog as far as possible, so that beneficiaries will not suffer during this festive season.
While acting commissioner, Marsha Bronkhorst, said that the UIF has been sporadically re-running claims for the previous months, this time it has “decided to recycle all claims to ensure that those that have been updated, including in respect of the provision of declarations and correction of discrepancies are paid”.
The resubmission process
Employers who submitted COVID-19 TERS claims via CSV files for the April to 15 September 2020 periods, and where “no employees” appear on the online portal, should assume that their CSV files were incorrectly formatted. Applicants who attempted to upload prior to the closing dates, and whose attempts failed due to technical issues, have now been given a further opportunity to resubmit.
The process for an employer to follow to resubmit claim data is:
- Complete the standard Excel template for the relevant lockdown period;
- Email this to Covid19failedCSV@labour.gov.za;
- Ensure that the email subject line reflects the month for which the claim is made;
- Send only one file, per email, with the correct month reflected in the subject line;
- The received Excel template will be checked and converted into the correct CSV format;
- The UIF will conduct a check on the COVID-19 TERS system, and if this audit confirms that the applicant made a submission on or before the closure date, the CSV will be loaded and processed; and
- The processing will only take place from 14 December 2020 onwards.
Applications for 16 September – 15 October 2020
The UIF has started processing and paying COVID-19 TERS claims for the period 16 September 2020 and 15 October 2020. Applications for this period close on 31 December 2020.
Through the appointed auditing firms, the UIF has begun phase 1 of the “Follow–the-Money” Project to check the authenticity of claims and verify if the money has been paid over to workers. Due to the festive season, the audits will cease on 18 December and resume on 4 January 2021.
TERS payments to foreign nationals
The UIF has started processing and paying COVID-19 TERS claims to foreign nationals who have been verified by the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Revenue Service and who meet all other verification processes. As of 16 December 2020, the UIF revealed that over R2-billion has been paid to 491 410 foreign nationals from 95 834 applications by employers since March 2020.
In a recent interview, Marsha Bronkhorst stated that the UIF has enhanced its systems in terms of bank verifications and to enable employers to declare employees electronically in response to these major hurdles that have hindered the finalisation of various COVID-19 TERS applications and payments. There is also a designated fraud report hotline through which fraud can be reported, and the COVID-19 TERS hotline call centre has increased its capacity.
UIF operational over the festive season
Marsha Bronkhorst has also stated that in order to fast-track the processing and payment of claims, including claims for normal UIF benefits, all key UIF personnel will not be going on leave during the festive season, save for between 24 December 2020 and 1 January 2021. She has promised that all valid outstanding payments will be made. However, she has not provided a date by which this will be done.
The UIF has also indicated that it has enough funds available to honour its commitments and that it has made provision for the anticipated spike resulting from mass retrenchments after the COVID-19 TERS period. R55.6 billion has been disbursed to millions of workers from 1.1-million applications since the first lockdown in March 2020.