Update: There have been significant changes to the regulations and the registration process for the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). Please refer to our updated guidance issued on 14/4/2020.
Please find attached important guidance on the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) Benefit, a joint effort between Clive Stewart and myself this time. Please note that the payment of these benefits will be at employer level and it applies for existing employees who are not able to work due to the lock-down. One practical challenge in the short term is the opening of a separate ring-fenced bank account, which is a key requirement for the process. This could be challenging during lock-down and we recommend that clients wishing to apply engage with their bankers as soon as possible to get the account opened.
To obtain further information, please email Covid19ters@LABOUR.gov.za – you will get a reply immediately with a full pack of the requirements.
Again, you are more than welcome to share this email if you feel it will be helpful to those in your network.
COVID-19: Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) Benefit
By Clive Stewart CA(SA) and Peter Cottrell CA(SA)
The government has assured the business community of short-term financial relief for companies facing liquidity challenges as a result of COVID-19 through the COVID-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) Benefit. Employers who have had to temporarily close their businesses due to the lockdown and have suffered financial distress, may apply for money from government to help pay salaries.
The basis of the benefit is that funds will be paid to Employers in an administrative capacity, for direct onward payment to the employees. One of the stated objectives of this is to avoid manual processes that may require beneficiaries to have to make physical contact in order to receive their benefit.
The TERS Benefit will cover a period of up to three months, and also afterwards, if Employers continue to struggle with their cash flow. Employers will have to prove that their businesses have been severely damaged by COVID-19 before they will get access to funding.
The payouts, to be administered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), will work on the same principal as maternity benefits. The amounts paid will be a percentage of an employee’s salary, according to a legislated sliding scale, from 38% (highest earners) to 60% (lowest earners). The sliding scale stops at R17,702 – workers earning more than this will only get the 38% maximum benefit, which is R6,730 a month.
Employers who are struggling to pay salaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic need to report this per email to Covid19ters@labour.gov.za. They will receive an automatic response outlining the application process. Each employer will be judged on its own individual merits before the TERS Benefit will be extended to them. Note that manual claims will not be accepted during the lockdown in order to reduce contact between people to curtail the spread of the pandemic.
Qualifying Criteria for Employers:
Ø The Employer must be registered with UIF;
Ø The Employer must comply with the application procedure for the financial relief scheme;
Ø The Employer’s temporary closure must be directly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is noted that the government gazette uses the word “company”, but the intention of this legislation seems to be towards providing continuity of income to employee’s of entities that have lost income due to closure. We have therefore used the word “Employer” throughout this guidance, as not every employer suffering hardship through the period of the lockdown will be incorporated as a “company”.
There also seems to be some question with clients over interpretation of the word “close”. For most it will be clear; if you have ceased trading you are closed and are eligible to apply for benefit. If you feel you fall into a separate category please obtain advice from a specialist or attorney.
The first step in the process is to send the email per above (Covid19ters@labour.gov.za). The email contains detailed step by step guidance on the process from there, including templates of the various documents required. The key documents required are:
Ø Letter of Authority, on an official employer letterhead granting permission to an individual specified to lodge a claim on behalf of the employer
Ø Memorandum of Agreement between UIF, Bargaining Council and Employer )only applicable to employers who have more than 10 employees)
Ø Prescribed template that will require critical information from the employer
Ø Evidence/payroll as proof of last three months employee salaries
Ø Confirmation of bank account details in the form of certified latest bank statement
Once completed, the application documents will need to be submitted to UIF by email (an email address is provided with the document pack).
Memorandum of Agreement:
The Memorandum of Agreement referred to above provides some important further insights to the intended operation of the TERS relief:
Ø The Employer will be required to open a separate ring-fenced bank account for receipt of the TERS benefits, to which the UIF will disburse the funds.
Ø This distribution is on the understanding is that the Employer is receiving the funds on behalf of Employees, and that the funds will be disbursed to the Employees within 5 working days. The agreement is explicit that these funds may not be used for any other purpose.
Ø UIF has the right to request financial documents to prove that the Employer was in distress during the existence of the agreement.
Ø Various accounting requirements are placed on the Employer, which must be accessible to authorised persons from the UIF. The records must be kept separately from the accounting records of the business enabling the TERS to be identified on a stand-alone basis.
Ø All accounting records, files and documents relating to the TERS benefit must be retained for a period of 5 years.
Ø The UIF have audit and investigatory powers to, at its sole discretion, investigated suspected breach of the Agreement, corruption or fraud.
It is very clear from the above that this benefit is aimed at getting funds to employees who are facing hardship as a result of these closures. In substance, Employer’s will be acting as an agent for the UIF in order to facilitate disbursement of the funds and, as such, will be subject to strict accountability criteria.