Category Archives: Covid-19

Breaking News: EXTENSION OF TERS (2020/03/02)

New Directive extends TERS from 16 October 2020 to 15 March 2021

The Department of Employment and Labour published a new letter today explaining the process to be followed to claim TERS for the period 16 October 2020 to 15 March 2021.  The directives have not yet been published and the system is not yet open for applications.

The intention is that the TERS applications can be submitted in two applications, the first from 16 October 2020 to 31 December 2020 and the second tranche will be from 1 January 2021 to 15 March 2021.

However, only certain industries or categories of employees will qualify for the TERS offered:

  1. Employees who were required to self-isolate or quarantine.
  2. Employees who were required to self-isolate or quarantine.
  3. Employees who were required to self-isolate or quarantine.

Supporting documentation for these claims will be required.

In terms of qualifying Industries, two lists have been provided.

List 1:

  1. TRANSPORTATION & STORAGE (tourism and hospitality)
  2.  ACCOMMODATION (tourism and hospitality)
  3. FOOD AND BEVERAGE SERVICE ACTIVITIES (tourism and hospitality)
  4. RENTING & LEASING ACTIVITIES (tourism and hospitality)
  5. OFFICE ADMINISTRATIVE, OFFICE SUPPORT, AND OTHER BUSINESS SUPPORT ACTIVITIES (tourism and hospitality)
  6. TRAVEL AGENCY, TOUR OPERATOR, RESERVATION SERVICES AND RELATED ACTIVITIES (tourism and hospitality)
  7. OTHER PERSONAL SERVICE ACTIVITIES (tourism and hospitality)
  8. RETAIL SALE OF CULTURAL AND RECREATION GOODS IN SPECIALIZED STORES (Arts, entertainment and recreation sector)
  9. CREATIVE, ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT ACTIVITIES (Arts, entertainment and recreation sector)
  10. LIBRARIES, ARCHIVES, MUSEUMS AND OTHER CULTURAL ACTIVITIES (Arts, entertainment and recreation sector)
  11. GAMBLING AND BETTING ACTIVITIES (Arts, entertainment and recreation sector)
  12. SPORTS ACTIVITIES AND AMUSEMENT AND RECREATION ACTIVITIES (Arts, entertainment and recreation sector)
  13. RETAIL SALE OF CULTURAL AND RECREATION GOODS IN SPECIALIZED STORES (Arts, entertainment and recreation sector)
  14.  AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND FISHING (liquor sector)
  15.  MANUFACTURE OF BEVERAGES (liquor sector)
  16.  WHOLESALE AND RETAIL TRADE (liquor sector)
  17.  TRANSPORTATION AND STORAGE (liquor sector)
  18.  SECURITY & INVESTIGATION ACTIVITIES (Service providers who place employees into the above affected sectors: security services)
  19. EMPLOYMENT ACTIVITIES (Service providers who place employees into the above affected sectors)
  20.  SERVICES TO BUILDINGS AND LANDSCAPE ACTIVITIES (Service providers who place employees into the above affected sectors: cleaning services / maintenance)

List 2

  1. Cinemas
  2. Theatres
  3. Casinos
  4. Museums, galleries, libraries and archives
  5. Gyms and fitness centres
  6. Restaurants
  7. Venues hosting auctions
  8. Venues hosting professional sports
  9. Night clubs
  10. Swimming pools
  11. Bars, taverns and shebeens
  12. Public parks
  13. Domestic and international air travel
  14. Rail, bus services and taxi services
  15. E- hailing services
  16. Sale, dispensing and distributions and transportation of liquor
  17. Beaches, dams, rivers and lake
  18. Passenger ships
  19. Venues where social events are held
  20. Venues hosting concerts and live performance
  21. Hotels, lodges, bed and breakfast, time share facilities, resorts and guest houses
  22. Conferencing, dining, entertainment and bar facilities
  23. International sports, arts and cultural events
  24. Professional services (cleaning and security) within regulated restricted sectors (e.g.: hospitality)
  25. Retails activities within regulated restricted sectors (e.g.: hospitality)
  26. Other services activities within regulated restricted sectors (e.g.: hospitality)

We are still working through some issues related to previous claims, but I think that future claims should be resolved quite quickly as systems have been improved.

If you require more information with regard to these claims.  Please contact the office for more information with regard to TERS claims.

New Occupational Health and Safety Measures

INTRODUCTION

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Department of Labour has issued directives (Consolidated Directions on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces), giving guidance on the measures that companies need to take to ensure that their workplaces are as safe as possible and to prevent the transmission of the virus.

On 1st October 2020, a new Directive was published which requires that all companies with more than 50 employees will have to comply with administrative duties which before were only required by companies with more than 500 employees.

WHAT IS NEW

Companies have previously had to undertake a risk assessment and to develop a workplace plan to implement the safe return of employees to the workplace. This plan must now include a dispute process to manage the process where there are employees who refuse to return to work because of fears of infection.

Companies with over 50 employees must:

  1. Submit a record of their risk assessment together with a written COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Policy to the Department of Employment and Labour by no later than the 21st October 2020.
  2. They must also submit the following data to the National Institute for Occupational Health:
    1. To be submitted once
      1. Each employee’s vulnerability status for serious outcomes of a Covid-19 infection.
    2. To be submitted weekly
      1. Details of the daily symptom screening data
      2. Details of employees who test positive for COVID-19
      3. The number of employees identified as high-risk contacts (and who have been quarantined) as a result of exposure to a worker who has tested positive for Covid-19 and
      4. Details on the post-infection outcomes of those testing positive, including the return to work assessment outcome.
  1. Report employees who display symptoms of Covid-19 and are suspected to have contracted the virus in the workplace to the Compensation Commissioner following the guidelines in the directive on Compensation for Workplace acquired Novel Corona Virus Disease.

WHAT TO DO IF A PERSON SHOWS SYMPTOMS OF COVID INFECTION

If an employee shows symptoms at the workplace, the employer must arrange for the worker to be transported to a public health facility for testing.
The employee is required to self-isolate and exposed employees are required to self-quarantine for 10 days (reduced from 14).

EMPLOYEES WHO REFUSE TO WORK

In previous directives there were guidelines of the steps to be taken if an employee refuses to work if circumstances arise which, with reasonable justification, appear to the employee to pose a risk of exposure to Covid-19.
The new directive requires that where the matter cannot be resolved by the safety representative (committee) and the Compliance Officer, the employee must refer it to an inspector within 24 hours and all parties must be informed of the referral.
The inspector is empowered to issue a prohibition notice in terms of section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act if they are of the opinion that the conditions in the workplace threatens the safety of any person.

We were really hoping that the lockdown would be lifted before having to comply with this legislation, but as it has been extended for another month, we will be required to comply. Failure to do so could mean a fine in terms of section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (currently R50 000-00 or one year in prison). We have developed formats for the reporting requirements and have posted all relevant legislation on our website.

Breaking News: TERS (2020/10/01)

Applications for TERS for the period 16 August 2020 to 15 September 2020 opened this morning. 

The UIF fund seems to have been working hard to try and resolve problems experienced in the months to July 2020 and we are trying to resolve issues that occurred in the payout for the July/September period, however, the call center appears to not be operational at this time.

In an announcement today the following was posted on the DOL Website:

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which has so far disbursed R45-billion (R45 244 060 501.31) in 10 212 116 payments through 902 775 employers, will from Thursday, 1 October 2020 start processing Covid-19 TERS applications for the period covering 16 August to 15 September 2020. 

The payments are part of the government wide basket of services to ensure that workers were not exposed to the worst effects of the pandemic – the lockdown that brought the economy to a halt.

Through these cash disbursements via employers, government, through the Ministry of Employment and Labor, has seen to it that many families who would otherwise not have had anything to eat were shielded from falling into the poverty trap.

“To apply for the September period, employers are required to upload similar documentation that include: signed approval or acceptance letter, bank confirmation letter, proof of payment to employees, and refund to the UIF – if applicable”, said the Acting UIF Commissioner Marsha Bronkhorst. 

Applications will undergo a vetting process with external partners to ascertain the validity of claims before the funds are paid and to ensure that the new controls weed out fraudulent claims.

“Early signs of the new vetting process with external partners show that we are on the right track, as we have been able to pick up potentially fraudulent claims. Payments to these claims have been stopped and have been referred to our Risk Management Unit for further investigation.

“We are also subjecting claims applications by foreign nationals to the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that we pay to authentic and deserving beneficiaries, and we shall immediately start paying these claims upon the completion of the vetting process by Home Affairs,” concluded Bronkhorst. 

It is important to note that Covid-19 TERS claim applications for April and May paid closed on 25 September 2020. Claims for June period will close on 15 October 2020 and July/August claims will close on 30 October 2020.

The extension of the payments was announced by the Minister Thulas Nxesi widening the net of the Covid TERS scheme till the end of the National State of Disaster.

We therefore anticipate an extension of the scheme to at least 15 October 2020.

Breaking News: TERS (2020/09/07)

New Directive extends TERS until the end of the COVID 19 Disaster

The Minister of Employment and Labour published a new Directive today extending the TERS benefit.  This extension in the terms of the directive:

shall be in operation for as long as the declaration of the COVID-19, in terms of the National Disaster Management Act, 2002(Act No. 57 of 2002), as a national disaster subsists or is withdrawn by the Minister, whichever comes first.”

This means that there is a further extension until at least 15 September (the date the Disaster Management Act has been extended to.

Having said that, no one to our knowledge has received the July/August TERS yet.

There has also been a clarification in a document called Extension Direction Communication.  The definition of who TERS can be applied for has had the following added to it.

  1. TERS can be applied for when vulnerable employees are unable to return to work, i.e. they have comorbidities or health issues which place them at a higher risk of complication or death should they contract the virus
  2. Employers can apply if:
    • They are not permitted to commence operations either partially or fully by the Regulations
    • They are unable to make arrangements for vulnerable employees to work from home
    • They are unable to fully employ staff because of economic, technological, structural, or similar needs caused by compliance to regulations
    • They are required to limit the number of employees at the workplace through rostering, staggering of working hours, short time or the introduction of shift systems and the temporary reduction in the employee’s ordinary remuneration.

The Directive has been back dated to 15 August 2020.

We are not sure when applications will open, but we have been warned that the DOL is intending to close applications for previous months. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION REGARDING TERS SEE OUR COVID-19 GUIDE ON OUR WEBSITE

Breaking News: TERS (2020/08/12)

The way is cleared for applications for TERS for July and August

The Minister of Employment and Labour published a new Directive today (which has been placed onto the Department of Labour Website) extending the TERS benefit to the 15th August 2020 in terms of section 4 (10) of the Regulations issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act.  There are a few other notable changes to the Scheme:

  1. TERS can be applied for when vulnerable employees are unable to return to work, i.e. they have comorbidities or health issues which place them at a higher risk of complication or death should they contract the virus
  2. Employers can apply if:
    1. They are not permitted to commence operations either partially or fully by the Regulations
    2. They are unable to make arrangements for vulnerable employees to work from home
    3. They are unable to fully employ staff because of economic, technological, structural or similar needs caused by compliance to regulations
    4. They are required to limit the number of employees at the workplace through rostering, staggering of working hours, short time or the introduction of shift systems.

The Directive has been back dated to 27 June 2020 and remains in operation to 15 August 2020.

We expect the website to open for applications this week.

DISCREPANCY TAB

A new functionality has been added to the system which allows for employers to correct information for an employee that they consider has been incorrectly paid through the TERS.  Called the Discrepancy Tab it will allow for that employee to be reassessed.

THE EFFECT OF TERS

In a media briefing published on 3 August 2020, it was announced that to date the fund has paid out R37 Billion (R37 133 662 558.77) for 693 561 applications benefits 8.3 million (3 298 307) employees.  This is within the budgeted R40 Billion announced in April.

The Commissioner said “it is quite clear that these disbursements have made a real difference to millions of people dependent on the workers who received these cash injections.  As the Fund, it is an honour of us to have played this part and will do so until August 15, armed with learnings from the past three months”

FOR MORE INFORMATION REGARDING TERS SEE OUR COVID-19 GUIDE ON OUR WEBSITE

BREAKING NEWS (2020/06/24)

TERS Application open for June 2020

The website has been opened for June applications for TERS Refunds.  This despite the fact that some April and May applications have not been approved.  In the latest information from the Department, we have been assured that the backlog is being attended to and that the systems reruns every 3 to 4 days.  We have seen movement on applications this week and the computer system does seem to be working more smoothly.

We are waiting for final information with regard to the closing dates for applications, but at this time new applications for TERS for April and May are still being accepted.  The sooner you apply, the sooner payment will be made.

For more information regarding TERS see our COVID-19 Guide on our website

COVID-19 Lockdown

Every day is bringing us new information and processes to follow in terms of applying for assistance for companies who are experience business distress and how we can assist employees when we are unable to pay them full salaries, or indeed any salary.

Below is some of the new information that we have in this process.

TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE RELIEF FUND

Having had a long conversation with the call centre this morning we have established the following:

  1. We cannot force employees to take annual leave during the lockdown, it should be treated as special leave, but the special leave does not need to be paid.  The implication is that if staff would prefer to use their annual leave they can.  We have changed our letter format to suit.
  2. The Memorandum of Agreement was meant for Bargaining Councils and not for individual employers applying.  This means that:
    • You do not need to open a special banking account.
    • You do not need to do a proforma invoice attracting VAT.
    • The letter of authority is still necessary and the UIF reserves the right to do an audit, but this MOA does not need to be signed, although there might be another document later.
  3. The application of TERS is meant for employees who will be receiving no funds during the lockdown period and perhaps for some time after this.  There is a separate process for employees whose income is affected by a reduction in their working hours.  This definition does not include those employees who are still working a full day, but may, due to financial constraints, have had their salary cut by a percentage.
  4. Employees whose time has been reduced will receive a benefit even if their salary after reduced hours is more than the maximum benefit from UIF of R6,730.56 (I asked this question several times, so really hope the information is correct).
  1. To claim for UIF benefits for reduced time we are now able to use the same process as TERS, but to include in the leave payment column of the spreadsheet, the value of the payment made to the staff member.

At this stage we are unable to determine what payment the employee will receive

Please don’t let employees use the online system as this will utilise their UIF credits and payment may not be received any time soon.

TAX CONCESSIONS

A draft document has been posted on the SARS Website with proposed assistance to employers to assist them during this time.  There are basically two proposals:

  1. ETI Benefit:  the proposal is to extend the Employment Tax Incentive to cover all staff to the age of 65 whose income is below R6500-00 by allowing employers to deduct R500-00 from their PAYE and to increase the benefit for employees with less than 24 months service and who are below the age of 29 by R500.
  2. Allowing small and medium-sized companies (turnover below R50 million) to defer the payment of 20 per cent of their PAYE liability, without SARS imposing administrative penalties and interest for the late payment thereof.
  3. The deferred PAYE liability must be paid to SARS in equal instalments over the six month period commencing on 1 August 2020, i.e. the first payment must be made on 7 September 2020.

RETIREMENT FUNDING RELIEF

Responding to calls from Employers wanting relief from the cost of paying over Retirement funding during this period, the FSCA has responded to say that while the risk benefits need to be paid (life insurance, disability insurance, funeral cover etc), with a rule change, which they are going expedite as quickly as possible, companies will not need to pay over the investment portion of the Retirement Funding during this period.  The official communique from the FSCA is posted below.  Please contact your Retirement Fund Administrator for assistance.

We will inform you when the regulations have been passed into law.