TERS Was Only Supposed To Be For Three Months, says UIF Commissioner

The Unemployment Insurance Fund is now under fire as it announced the end of the Temporary Employer/Employee Scheme. The UIF's Commisioner has now spoken on the situation saying that TERS was only supposed to be for three months.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund is now under fire as it announced the end of the Temporary Employer/Employee Scheme. The UIF's Commisioner has now spoken on the situation saying that TERS was only supposed to be for three months. She also addressed the concerns which were found at UIF offices

While speaking to SABC, Bronkhurst reminds those watching that TERS was only supposed to be there for three months and was always in line with the availability of funding and to ensure that the UIF can be sustainable.

However, Business for South Africa (B4SA) calls for Government to extend the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme as it was found that the Unemploymnt Insurance Fund does indeed have the funds to do so.

B4SA's Robert Legh, said, "There was a consensus at Nedlac, it needed to go to the decision makers for a decision and the consensus was that from a liquidity perspective, something like R51 billion in liquid assets were available in the Fund and the cost of extending the benefit would probably be another R4 billion a month for the next three months so there's definitely money available."

TERS benefits have been paid for seven months to a payment total of R51 billion. UIF projects that by the time they've done all the payments, they would have disbursed R61 billion in TERS benefits.

"Our original commitment was R40 billion so you can see that we've already exceeded the original commitment by the end of this," said Bronkhurst.

UIF payments depend on many factors which include third parties and client information. Three payment runs are done a day which is the most the Fund says it is able to do. Bronkhurst explains that an employer submits additional information, they do a payment run as soon as they can. 

The scheme not being extended could have complications for businesses and their workers. It was originally supposed to go on as long as the National State of Disaster was declared. However, Government has made the decision to put an end to the scheme. The relief scheme was one of the main elements of the President's R500 billion relief plan during the pandemic. 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is not at all happy about Government's decision to not extend TERS and the Union's National spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said, "What is more problematic is that employers have made it clear that they are likely to retrench if TERS is shut down."

We also want to meet with the president because he himself misled us. He chairs the command council so he cannot pretend this decision was taken without him knowing.

- Sizwe Pamla

The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), Mkhuleko Hlengwa, has also expressed concerns relating to the Fund. 

After a visit to the UIF's Pretoria Offices, it definitely was not a scene one can boast about. There were issues such as a lack of capacity and lack of human resources at the UIF was seen. This could then worry some beneficiaries who depend on the fund.

Hlengwa said, "SCOPA is concerned with the lack of human capacity at UIF, particularly at the call centre, which is where emails, online applications and calls from the public are processed. SCOPA was informed that the call centre currently has a backlog of 444 000 emails from the public with only eight call centre agents to attend to those emails".

The UIF gets an average of 30 000 calls per day but is only able to attend to 3000 of them. 

Marsha Bronkhurst, Acting Commissioner for the UIF has said, "It's disheartening. It's equally disheartening for me to be able to sit here and I have to face the clients of the UIF."

Under normal circumstances, the call centre would not have been a challenge but with Covid and the increase in enquiries it presents, the UIF call centre is overburdened, Bronkhurst explained further.

Given the huge amount of enquiries we have around Covid TERS payments and enquiries such as why the bank account couldn't go through, the call centre is not at the level it usually is.

To solve this, the Fund has entered into a short contract to get the total of call centre agents up to 300 and they have also made 25 people nationwide available to answer any questions clients have and to assist basic challenges. 

These assistants are situated in labour centres and provincial officers ready to assist across South Africa.

These interventions do however seem to come at a late stage, especially now that the UIF has officially announced that the TERS benefits will not be extended. 

SCOPA said that the consulting company which was contracted to improve systems couldn't respond to their questions.

All TERS claims that the UIF has had in their system up until October will be paid. "Each and every claim will be paid up to the 30th of October. Even those claims where we have challenges, we send them messages to make sure we have the correct information so that we can pay," said Bronkhurst.



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