Claiming coronavirus funding for domestic workers and gardeners – what you need to know

Domestics and gardeners who could not work during lockdown – and received no or reduced income – can receive benefits under the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).

Domestics and gardeners can also claim for illness benefits if they were ill/required to self-isolate and could not work, said Joon Chong, partner at law firm Webber Wentzel.

She added that if these workers were retrenched, they can also claim for unemployment benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act.

Below Chong oultined the TERS application process as well as some of the benefits compared to the UIF.

Applying as employees

Employees who wish to apply for TERS benefits themselves can do so by registering their profile on uFiling, the secure UIF website providing for employers to register, declare and pay the monthly UIF contributions, said Chong.

“An employer will still need to complete the employee declaration to be submitted as part of an employee’s TERS application on uFiling.

“Therefore, the TERS benefits submission process by an employee is not completely without the employer’s involvement.”

Applying as employers

An employer who wishes to claim TERS benefits should do so by registering online here.

Chong said that employers should first send an email here to receive an autoreply which sets out the online application process and template spreadsheet to be populated.

“Notably, the column for remuneration during shutdown for the March/April applications in the template spreadsheet should exclude any TERS benefit advances or leave pay,” she said.

“For the May applications and onward, this column requires the remuneration for work done or works to be done in May 2020, also excluding leave pay and payments in advance.”

Chong said that the completed spreadsheet will then need to be converted to a very specific csv format file which will then be uploaded online.

Alternatively, employers can upload details of their employees one at a time using the “Add employee” function online, she said.

Chong said that the manual uploading of employees is the preferred method of submission by the UIF, has a higher success rate and results in much faster payments.

“Some of the reasons where employees submitted by employers online have been rejected include foreign individuals without South African identity numbers, individuals with historic or ongoing UIF claims reflected on the system, and where employers or employees are not registered and have not submitted the relevant declarations.

“All these issues will first need to be dealt with on uFiling before the TERS benefits will be processed on the UIFECC website.”

Employers must also check that the csv file which was uploaded then results in the employee details captured on the website, she said.

“All too often, even though the csv file reflected as uploaded and the employer received an email confirming this, the employee details were not captured on the website to be processed and no payment could be made by the UIF.

Employers should check the website every day after uploading the csv file to ensure that the employee details are captured, said Chong.

“It may take a few days before the employee details are captured. In the interim, the employer should check the format of the csv file and where this is correct, continue to upload the files.

“The employer should also send emails to the various UIF support email addresses. However, these are not currently responded to. The employer should also try to contact the call centre number at 0800 030 007 and request that their issue be escalated.”

TERS preferred to UIF 

Chong said that an employer should ideally apply for TERS benefits for domestics and gardeners as this will result in faster payments to them and also greater amounts of benefits as any top-up payment by the employer does not reduce their calculated benefit.

This is provided that any additional payment by the employer plus the TERS benefits received by the domestic or gardener does not exceed their remuneration ordinarily received, she said.

“Further, the TERS benefit is de-linked from the UIF’s normal benefits and therefore payment of the TERS benefit will not use any credit days accumulated (i.e. 1 credit day for every 4 days worked).

“The domestic and gardener will also receive the national minimum wage of R3,500 as the minimum TERS benefit, which is not available for other UIF benefits.”

Chong said that the maximum salary benefit taken into account in the sliding scale formula is R17,712 per month per employee, and the benefit payable will be calculated using the income replacement sliding scale of between 38% to 60%.

Effectively, this means that the domestic or gardener can earn a minimum of R3,500 and a maximum of R6,638.40.

“An employer will then also download the payment allocation schedule for the breakdown of payments for all its employees and process the payments on the payslips. The proof of payment of the TERS benefits will need to be provided to the UIF.”

Applying for unemployment benefits

Where domestics and gardeners are retrenched, they will need to apply for unemployment benefits on uFiling, said Chong.

The illness benefits, unemployment benefits and reduced time benefits will be applied in the same manner, which is on “Benefit Application and Payments” section and “Apply for Benefits” tab, she said.

“The employee will need to verify bank details with part of the UI2.8 form completed by the employee’s bank and the other part by the employee.

“The completed UI2.8 bank form and contact details will then need to be emailed to [email protected].”

Personal details including physical and postal addresses will need to be confirmed or updated. Information on occupation and qualifications will need to be updated, and Work Seeker information will also need to be updated.

The application history can be viewed at the “View Application History” section. An employee can lodge a notice of appeal if their application for benefits was declared by selecting “Notice of Appeal” and completing the section accordingly.

“Ideally, employers should assist their domestics and gardeners to claim TERS benefits, and if they are retrenched, unemployment benefits on uFiling,” said Chong.

“Payments can be made directly into the bank accounts of the domestics or gardeners, or to the employers, if the employers had paid the TERS benefits as advance payments.

“Payments for unemployment benefits can only be made to the bank accounts of the domestics and gardeners.”

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