In the wake of the sporadic unrest that occurred in July 2021, impacting businesses in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) remains committed to providing assistance to workers and distressed companies. UIF Commissioner, Teboho Maruping, has affirmed the Fund’s dedication to supporting those in need during challenging times. As a testament to this commitment, the UIF intervened and provided financial relief to 6,644 workers who were adversely affected by the unrest, disbursing a total of R21.8 million.
The Workers Affected by Unrest (WABU) temporary financial relief scheme was established as a direct response to the unrest. This initiative aimed to assist workers whose workplaces had to close due to the upheaval, resulting in partial or complete loss of income. The WABU scheme operated alongside the special Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) Relief Scheme, which has been in effect since March 2020. Through the TERS Relief Scheme, the UIF has already disbursed an impressive R64 billion to workers across the country.
Since August 2021, the UIF has received more than 2,000 applications for WABU relief. However, after a rigorous physical verification process conducted by labor inspectors from the Department of Employment & Labour, only 165 applications have been approved thus far. To qualify for the scheme, employers were required to apply on behalf of affected workers and meet certain criteria, including registration with the UIF, workplace closure directly linked to destruction, damage, or looting, and submission of relevant documentation such as police reports and insurance claims.
Commissioner Maruping emphasizes that the UIF will continue to implement interventions aligned with its mandate to stimulate job creation, enhance employability, preserve jobs, and improve operational efficiencies for distressed companies. The Fund is dedicated to ensuring that workers can support themselves and their families during challenging periods. Maruping cites the UIF’s consistent assistance to workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic as evidence of the organization’s ability to respond effectively to crises affecting workers and businesses.
Furthermore, Commissioner Maruping assures the public that businesses benefiting from the WABU scheme are not exempt from scrutiny. The UIF has initiated thorough audits to verify that funds were rightfully distributed to employees. The “follow the money” auditors have already visited 97 companies, and the process will continue until all funds are accounted for. These audits serve as an essential fraud prevention measure, ensuring transparency and accountability.
Preliminary results from the WABU “follow the money” project indicate that out of the 97 audited employers, 74 were able to continue operations due to the UIF intervention, effectively saving 76% of jobs. However, one company is currently undergoing liquidation, another is suspected of fraudulent activities due to missing records, and one is undergoing an ownership change.
To further strengthen fraud prevention measures, WABU funds were primarily deposited directly into verified worker bank accounts. Exceptions were made only when authorized by the UIF Commissioner, under specified conditions, allowing payments to be made into the employer’s account.
The UIF’s unwavering support to workers and distressed companies highlights its vital role in providing social relief. As the country navigates through challenging times, the UIF’s commitment to preserving jobs and assisting those affected by various crises remains steadfast. The Fund’s interventions have proven crucial in alleviating the financial burden faced by workers and businesses, showcasing its ability to adapt and respond effectively to changing circumstances. With ongoing audits and measures in place, the UIF is dedicated to ensuring that funds are distributed appropriately and that those who rely on its assistance receive the support they deserve.