Most people are familiar with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), but still struggle when they have to claim. Samke Mhlongo breaks down the process involved when claiming.
“Mma ngwana o tshwara thipa ka bohaleng” (a mother will do everything to protect). This is one of my favourite quotes as it so clearly depicts the lengths that not only a mother, but women at large, go to in order to protect those they love. We play many roles as women. We are entrepreneurs and professionals in the workplace, shoulders to cry on and providers of emergency loans within our friendships, the better half in intimate relationships as well as mothers in our homes. Because we spend so much time taking care of others, I am here to remind you to take care of yourself, too. One of the most critical ways to do this is through the UIF. Yes, that sneaky little line item on our payslip that very few can explain. We know it goes somewhere below PAYE and above medical aid, but is it of any use? I turned to the Department of Labour (DOL) website for some answers. And, after feeling even more confused than when I started, I decided to speak to Cebile Xulu, HR director at Mondelēz International, who always manages to break down complex issues in easy-to-understand, everyday language.
What is UIF?
According to the DOL, UIF provides benefits to workers who become unemployed. It is governed by the Unemployment Insurance Act No 63 of 2001, and Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act No 63 of 2001. Additionally, the fund houses the insurance that will cover you during periods of unemployment. You can think of it as a type of income insurance; a top up for those periods where you are temporarily not working.
How does it work?
Every month, all employees working for more than 24 hours per month, including domestic workers, must be registered by their employer to contribute 2% of their basic salary towards the fund. One percent of this comes as a deduction from the employee while the other one is contribution by the employer. The UIF is administered by the DOL, and if you are temporarily unemployed, you can apply for your income to be topped up by the fund. Cebile highlights that the monthly contribution is currently set at a maximum of R148. Therefore, if 2% of your basic salary is greater than R148, then your contribution will be below 2% as it will be capped at R148. Throughout my 15 years of formal employment, I have been contributing to the UIF. But, I have never claimed. So, who exactly benefits from this fund and how do they do so?
Who gets to claim?
Women on maternity leave are probably the most common example of people who have claimed from the UIF. But, many other workers qualify too. In order to qualify to claim, you need to first qualify to contribute to the fund. The DOL stipulates that all employers and employees must be registered to contribute to the fund, unless you work less than 24 hours a month, and if you are a learner, public servant or foreigner who will return to your country at the end of your contract. But, simply having made contributions does not mean you will be eligible to claim benefits as there are exclusions. These include:
- If you are already receiving benefits from the Compensation Fund.
- If you became unemployed through your own fault, such as voluntarily resigning.
- If you were absconded or found guilty of fraud.
Cebile adds that if you voluntarily resigned as a result of constructive dismissal (proven by a legal body such as the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration), you have a right to claim from the UIF. Now, how simple is claiming?
How do you claim?
Thanks to technology, claiming is relatively easy. You can do it online via uFiling, a free service offered by the DOL. Visit ufiling.co.za and register for an account. You will need your UIF registration number, 13-digit bar-coded South African ID number, a valid email address as well as your banking account details into which your UIF contributions will be paid. Once registered, additional documents may be required to process your claim, such as a signed UI19 form from your employer stating why you are no longer employed. If technology is not your friend and you prefer a physical interaction, you can make your claim via your nearest DOL office. There, you will be required to complete a claim application form and submit it with the above-mentioned documents as well as your confirmation of banking details. Remember that your claims will be paid for a maximum of 238 days and during that time, you will need to be registered with the DOL as a jobseeker. Should you find a job before your 238 days are up, then your benefits will cease. Other instances in which your benefits will stop include cases where you refuse to go for training or for advice on how to assist you to gain new employment. So, be careful not to find yourself in that situation.
I trust that you are now better informed as to what the UIF is, and how it can serve you, your friends and loved ones in time of need.