Confusion surrounds Covid-19 temporary employee relief scheme

13 April 2020 Edward West

CAPE TOWN – There is a great deal of confusion around the new Covid-19 temporary employee relief scheme (C19 TERS) and who can apply for the benefit.

This was the view of Fiona Leppan, a director at the employment practice at legal firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr this week.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Department of Employment and Labour launched the C19 TERS to provide emergency relief to enable employers to pay employees who are temporarily laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis.

A vast number of small business owners, in particular, are unable to pay their workers’ salaries during the 21-day national lockdown.

DA Sandown MP Dr Michael Cardo said the UIF’s Covid-19 TERS benefit, which pays towards the salary costs of employees on a sliding scale, was the only hope and salvation of many employers and workers.

“While the UIF appears to have the necessary resources available for the scheme – having earmarked R30 billion – there’s a concern around its administrative capacity, as high numbers of claims are expected.

“Because of this, contrary to the normal practice of workers submitting claims individually, UIF benefits will be paid through companies, sectoral associations and bargaining councils,” Leppan said in an interview.

Employers would access these funds on behalf of their employees. If the employees belong to a Bargaining Council, the employee gets paid the UIF benefit through the Bargaining Council organisation.

Leppan said employers would open themselves to prosecution for theft if they accessed these funds for their employees, but then did not pass on the benefits to their employees.

Cardo said the government should publish a dashboard of claims under the scheme for employees.

A “clear and accessible communication channel providing daily updates” would constitute an important monitoring and evaluation tool to assess whether the UIF was coping with the immense administrative stress it is under, Cardo said.

A daily dashboard would also enable additional resources to be deployed swiftly to the UIF if necessary. And it would also help to ease the disquiet of many employers and employees who were concerned about whether they would be able to put food on the table at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, in another development, MTN has stepped up its assistance to help with the Covid-19 outbreak in South Africa by delivering 30 800 face masks and 18 000 bottles of hand sanitisers to provincial health departments this week.

Supplies of face masks and hand sanitisers have been running low.

Precautionary measures implemented by various governments to curb the spread of the virus had affected production and shipping, resulting in a shortage of these supplies worldwide.

The MTN Foundation said the first supplies were delivered to provincial health departments yesterday, and would continue for the rest of the week.

MTN was also assisting non-profit organisations that were working with communities dealing with the pandemic, such as by providing these organisations with wi-fi modems and data through the period.

Source: IOL at https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/economy/confusion-surrounds-covid-19-temporary-employee-relief-scheme-46474275