In the wake of the rapid developments to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Temporary Relief Scheme ("C19 TERS") in the past few weeks, it is critical that employers remain informed and up-to-date on the latest processes in place.
The C19 TERS was established to compensate employees who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, through the Unemployment Insurance Fund ("UIF").
The UIF has recently developed an online portal to lodge claims under the C19 TERS. A revised Easy-Aid Guide and Online C19 TERS Guide have also been released to assist employers, bargaining councils and other similar bodies through the application process. These documents can be obtained (attached in an automated response) by emailing: Covid19ters@labour.gov.za. Another guide relating to C19 TERS online claims has also be published on the Department of Employment and Labour's website.
The revised Easy-Aid Guide in a nutshell
The revised Easy-Aid Guide stipulates that applicants (employers, bargaining councils and other similar bodies) must fill in the legal undertaking document, available on the online portal. It also clarifies that revised Memorandum of Agreement ("MOA") templates have been developed to govern the C19 TERS application, and outlines when each of the four MOAs must be used and by whom. It also states that upon the UIF's approval, benefits will be paid.
The revised Easy-Aid Guide also sets out the status of these MOAs and form. The Easy-Aid Guide explains that the MOAs serve as an application for the TERS benefit, and that the MOAs are pre-signed by and for the UIF "for efficiency and speed of process to contracting." It is important to note that these MOAs are in PDF format and employers appear to have no room to deviate from the terms and conditions set out therein.
According to the revised Easy-Aid Guide, only once the Applicant receives what it terms "letter A3" from the UIF stating that its application has satisfied all the requirements and has been approved, does the MOA become an "agreement". Upon such approval, the UIF will then send the employer an approval letter marked "A3". The Applicant (except an individual employee) must then indicate acceptance of the approval. This is done by signing a pro forma letter ("Letter A4") and sending it back to UIF. Although the Easy-Aid Guide's utilisation of the word "agreement" in respect of "letter A3" is confusing, it appears that the MOA will only have the status of a legally binding contract in terms of clause 4 thereof upon receipt of the Applicant's acceptance A4 letter.
Moreover, the revised Easy-Aid Guide specifies that employers, bargaining councils, councils and affected employees can apply for the benefit in terms of the procedure set out therein or as may be approved, in writing, from time to time. In this respect, "Employers, Bargaining Councils or Council (Applicant(s)) apply as a mechanism to speed the payment to employees in their sphere or sector." It is also essential for employers to note that "employees may apply themselves if and when their employer/Bargaining Council/Council have not applied on their behalf" (our emphasis).
The online application process
The Online C19 TERS Guide outlines the twelve steps that an employer or other applicant must follow to lodge a claim on the online portal. An employer may also wish to refer to the Guide relating to C19 TERS online claims on the Department of Employment and Labour's website.
For employers who want to attach a CSV file instead of capturing employees' details on the online platform, an “employee details template” is attached to the automated response with a guideline document to assist.
Given these unprecedented times and pace of change, it is likely that we will see further developments going forward, including in respect of the C19 TERS. If employers have any enquiries, they can contact: 012 337 1997 / 080 003 0007. We also recommend that employers stay up-to-date as best they can and seek sound legal advice where necessary.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.