Workers whose employers have not registered them for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) are going to be hard hit financially by the COVID-19 outbreak.
A study by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Casual Workers Advice Office has found that while the government has made provisions for employees to be paid by the UIF during the lockdown, employers had not registered workers. Under the COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme provision, the UIF will pay employers the cost of employees’ salaries for up to three months.
The report was based on the analysis of 75 companies ranging from large to small-to-medium enterprises. Thirty-five of the companies analysed remain operational while 40 have ceased operating under the national lockdown.
It states that companies might have in fact not registered their employees with the fund.
Though the benefit for the national disaster fund is not linked to the usual UIF benefits, beneficiaries should still be registered with the UIF.
The report states: “High levels of employer non-compliance in registering their workers for the UIF will severely limit the relief that workers may be able to seek through no fault of their own. Companies can only apply if they have registered their workers with the fund.
“Unfortunately, a significant number of employers are failing to register and pay their workers UIF benefits, as required by law. The 2017 annual report from the then Department of Labour found non-compliance that it uncovered through payroll audits to be as high as 28%.”
The report states the figure might even be higher than what the Department of Labour believes. The researchers say instead of applying for the fund, companies are instead making employees bear the economic brunt of the lockdown by forcing them to take unpaid leave or compulsory leave.
It also found that of the companies that are still operating because they are essential services, they are largely failing to provide basic or adequate health and safety provisions.
“Out of 35 companies that are still operating, 30 had not provided personal protective equipment, 29 had not undertaken measures to ensure social distancing in the workplace, 28 had not provided transport to workers and 22 had not provided hand sanitiser.”
The report also noted that some companies, particularly in the food and beverage and chemical sectors, produce non-essential and luxury goods and were placing the lives of workers at risk unnecessarily.