DURBAN - Large scale shedding of jobs, a large number of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) enquiries and an applications backlog have contributed to the long queues seen at Department of Labour offices in the province.
This is according to Simenyiwe Mchunu, provincial assistant manager for the UIF in KZN.
The Department of Labour in KZN last week gave the media an update on the disbursement of funds.
Mchunu said they had seen a surge in demand for UIF claims in the previous and current financial year.
Mchunu said between the first and last quarter of the 2020/21 financial year in KwaZulu-Natal, 490 178 benefit payments had been made valued at R 2.4bn.
The R2.4 bn represented 15% of the national R 15.8bn in benefit payments that had been made to 3 106 450 beneficiaries across the country.
“We have established teams to engage employers planning mass retrenchments, to avoid the flooding of queues. In each of our centres as well, we have also employed at least three queue marshals to ensure the lines move quicker,” said Mchunu.
He said the cause of long queues at labour centres was due mainly to the large scale shedding of jobs, clients submitting continuation forms for relief, a large number of UIF enquiries, and what he described as an applications backlog.
Despite what he described as overall administrative challenges, he said the department was able to achieve among other targets:
- 92% of valid claims (Unemployment benefits/reduced working hours) with complete, verified and accurate information approved or rejected within 15 working days.
- 92% of valid claims (in-service benefits: maternity, illness, adoption, parental and commissioning) with complete, verified and accurate information approved or rejected within 10 working days.
- 92% of valid claims (dependants claims) with complete, verified and accurate information approved or rejected within 20 working days.
- 95% of payment documents processed after receipt within five working days.
“What we have observed as a common cause for the rejection of claims for benefits is incorrect application forms, either by the employer or the employees themselves, which causes a delay in processing. Another worrying trend that we are noting is that some employers are taking UIF (Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme) funds for themselves and not passing them on to the employees,” Mchunu added.
He said: “Some employers are also not registering and declaring employees. Under the current financial year, we are pushing for employees to familiarise themselves with their UIF benefits and to regularly check whether they have been declared by their employers.”
Edward Khambule, KZN labour department provincial chief inspector for workplaces, said its 423 inspectors continued to check whether employers were adhering to labour law requirements.
He said foreign nationals from Lesotho and Swaziland are often victims of exploitative labour practices by some employers.
“We found at least 130 employment sites that were not compliant, and nine of these have been referred for prosecution. There are employers who continually flout basic conditions of employment. At this point, our only recourse for these repeat offenders is to enforce steeper fines as a deterrent to their practices.
“Some of them become frustrated and close up their businesses. The employment of undocumented foreign nationals adds to the vulnerability, especially in the freight environment. Foreign national employees are also protected under labour laws, ” said Khambule.