Topical Issues

Explanatory Notes on Covid-19 Disaster Relief Measures

1. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FUND (“UIF”)

There are a number of financial options that are available to your business to enable it to survive the coronavirus pandemic. One such option is via the UIF.

The UIF has an estimated surplus of R180 billion and this is the logical first port of call when looking at incentives, especially as money given by the UIF is not a loan and thus doesn’t have to be repaid. There are two routes to access funds from the UIF, namely by using the traditional UIF method (National Disaster Benefit) or by making use of the new Temporary Employer / Employee Relief Scheme (“TERS”), both of which are discussed in further detail below. 

For either method, the employer must be registered with the UIF and must be making monthly contributions to the fund. If you are behind on your contributions, you can pay in any backlog that you have. 

1.1 NATIONAL DISASTER BENEFIT:

A. Temporary shut-down:

If the employer temporarily shuts down the business, then the UIF will pay out R3,500 per employee per month for up to three months.

Requirements to access the National disaster benefit:

  • A letter from the employer confirming the operation is temporarily closing down due to the coronavirus.
  • A copy of the employee’s ID
  • Forms to be completed:
    • UI 19 and UI 12.7 (employer to complete);
    • UI 2.1 – application form; and
    • UI 2.8 – Confirmation of bank account.

B. Reduced work time:

The pay-out is the difference between what the employer pays the employee and the amount of the UIF benefit.

  • Forms to be completed:
    • UI 19 and UI 2.7 (completed by employer);
    • UI 2.1 (application);
    • UI 2.8 (bank form completed by the bank);
    • A letter from the employer confirming Reduced Work Time is due to the coronavirus; and
    • Copy of ID document.

C. Quarantine and illness:

In cases where employees are put in isolation for 14 days or more.

  • Requirements:
    • Letters from the employer and employee confirming that the person is in quarantine. No medical certificate is needed.
    • If the quarantine is longer than 14 days, a certificate is required from the employee’s doctor, along with the form UI3.
  • Forms to be completed:
    • UI 19 and UI 2.7 (completed by Employer);
    • UI 2.2 (a portion of which is completed by the Doctor);
    • UI 2.8 (bank form completed by the bank); and
    • Copy of ID document.

D. Death benefits:

If the employee dies, the UIF will pay the funds to his / her beneficiaries.

  • Forms to be completed:
    • UI 19 and UI 53 (completed by the Employer);
    • UI 2.5 or UI 2.6 (deceased application);
    • Death Certificate;
    • ID of deceased and applicant;
    • UI 2.8 (bank form completed by the bank); and
    • Copy of ID document.

You can also download the UIF’s “Easy-Aid Guide for Employers” here for further guidance.

1.2 TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE / EMPLOYER RELIEF SCHEME (“TERS”)

The TERS applies to any businesses who temporarily shuts down its operations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – a three-month period is currently envisioned but this could be extended. The UIF then pays salaries to all staff, based on the current UIF pay outs – a maximum of R6,731 per month for staff earning R17,162 or more down to the minimum wage of R3,500.

There is quite a bit of documentation here – send an email to Covid19ters@labour.gov.zaand you will get the forms to be completed and other requirements needed.

A Memorandum of Agreement is signed and the employer submits (in the required format) a spreadsheet of employee details and salary, proof of payment of the last 3 months’ salaries, as well as a bank confirmation of the applicable bank account.

You will need to open a separate bank account for this and prove each month that all staff have been paid.

There is quite a bit of work here and completing the relevant forms accurately will prevent any delays in payment.

1.3 CONCLUSION

Which of the two schemes to choose from depends on your business and please note that there is some cross-over. For example, quarantined employees can claim under the National Disaster Benefit (see Quarantine and Illness). On the face of it, TERS looks more lucrative but it is very administratively intensive in setting up, and as a new scheme it may be subject to teething problems. Ask us for advice in if you are in any doubt regarding how to proceed.

2. THE DEPARTMENT OF SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT (“DSBD”)

An amount of R500 million has been set aside to help SMMEs due to the impact of the coronavirus. The money will be in the form of loans at prime less 5%. Assistance falls into two categories:

  1. Business Growth/ Resilience Facility: This applies to businesses whose products are aligned to helping to combat the pandemic. Examples are making hand sanitisers, medical protective clothing, medical supplies etc. SMME logistics companies may also apply for funding.
    Funding will cover bridging finance, asset finance, stock and working capital needs.
  2. Debt Relief Fund: Companies will need to show how the coronavirus has impacted on their business. The relief focuses on purchase of stock and other operating needs. Funds will be released based on the company’s cash flow requirements.

The starting point is to register on the DSBD’s portal (www.smmesa.gov.za) – the registration entails staff breakdown between males and females, the number of youth employees and racial classification of staff. There is also a section on who owns the business and annual turnover. The business needs to be 100% South African owned and the work force is to be 70% local.

The DSBD is setting up an SMME database which will be used in future interventions. 

Once registered follow the application process which opened on Thursday, 02 April 2020. How much each business gets is still unclear.

Call the DSBD’s hotline 0860 663 7867 or email info@dsbd.gov.za to check what kind of government support you qualify for.

3. DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY (“DTI”)

R3 billion assistance has been set aside with a main focus on providing funding to “vulnerable” businesses and to provide financing help to companies involved in the battle to roll back the coronavirus. It’s not that dissimilar to the DSBD’s approach but it serves all business, not just SMMEs. Of the R3 billion, R500 million will be for importing needed medical products and R700 million will be used for financing equipment and working capital requirements. Guidelines as to how to apply have yet to be issued.

4. THE SOLIDARITY FUND

This has been set up with R150 million from the government (www.solidarityfund.co.za) and it is designed to help stop and detect the virus, look after the people with it, plus help those people who are vulnerable as a result of the coronavirus. Mary Oppenheimer has pledged R1 billion to this fund and Naspers has committed R500 million.

You may wish to donate to the fund or apply for help for struggling staff members.

5. PRIVATE AND CORPORATE FUNDS

The Rupert and Oppenheimer families and the Motsepe Foundation, have each pledged R1 billion to the relief fund. Motsepe’s money will go towards helping poor communities fight the coronavirus by supplying them with hand sanitisers etc. The Ruperts’ and Oppenheimers’ funds will be used to help struggling small businesses and employees as a result of the coronavirus. In addition, Naspers has pledged R1.5 billion (in addition to the R500 million to the Solidarity Fund) to source medical supplies and protective equipment, from China, for health care workers.  

The Rupert funds will be disbursed by Business Partners and application forms will soon be released – although details are not yet available, the money will be a loan.  

The Oppenheimer money will be paid out from the “South Africa Future Trust” through the four major banks in the form of a five-year interest free loan – for details see SAFT’s website. SMMEs will apply to their bank which will then pay salaries directly into employees’ bank accounts. No liability will be incurred by employees – the business will be liable for repayment. Speak to your bank manager for how to apply – the system began operating on Friday, 03 April 2020. 

Details on the Motsepe and Naspers disbursements are still outstanding.