Monday, January 24

FIU battles with maternity claims and downsizing

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Over the past few weeks, Moneyweb has received numerous complaints from listeners and readers about the Unemployment Insurance Fund. They claim that they have been waiting for months for payments from the FIU. These claims relate to actual maternity and downsizing benefits, and not Ters payments to people who have lost their jobs or a portion of their income due to Covid-19 regulations. In one case, a listener has been waiting for almost a year for a payment related to his reduction.


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Makhosonke Buthelezi is on the line. He is the spokesperson for the FIU. Makhosonke, thank you very much for joining me. Is there a delay in payments due to people who have submitted claims not related to Ters?

MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: Thanks. Good night, Ryk. Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that if the claim is complete, it has everything we need. We can process it. In cases where a claim was filed, but there are certain things missing from the claim, we are unable to process it, and a customer who has filed that claim would think that perhaps the delay is ours. I can simply tabulate some of the reasons why some of your claims are delayed. It should?

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Please do it, please do it.

MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: The first last one is that there are cases where a company has claimed Ters, perhaps in the first three months of Ters, and then the employee or worker was fired. When they go to claim unemployment benefit, they realize that the system reflects that the person continues to receive Ters benefit. If that is the case, the claim will not be processed. This is where we ask employers to deliver a letter to their employee to present, or simply inform us online, through the normal declaration, that the employee is no longer employed; therefore, process the normal profit. That is one of the main reasons we have noticed maternity requests as well.

The second issue is the issue of declarations, where employers, as required by law on the seventh of each month, do not report their employees to the FIU. That will solve many problems because if they are not declared with the fund, we cannot process the claim. The subsequent statement means that we must close the labor gap on your part. So there are numerous reasons, but I heard that you want to get in.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Yes. Some of the complaints I received come from last year, when someone was fired and submitted documentation, received a confirmation from the FIU that everything was in order, but the payment just did not come.

I also spoke with an employment agent, who filed some of these claims on behalf of some of his clients, and he says that seven out of 10 claims he has filed actually experienced delayed payment, in some cases for more than a year. Can you shed light on that side?

MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: Yes. Speaking of labor intermediaries, we are not treating them differently than a ……[4:18] who goes and files a claim. They are all subject to the same rules. And with them, what we have also noticed is that these things that I am talking about are not even capable of closing the gaps, for example.

Let me tell you that generally one of the challenges we face as a fund is filing claims online. The system is now overwhelmed because it was built to process X number of claims, but with the rise in unemployment, that problem has arisen, which is now overwhelmed. It takes more than what was built.

Second, people are looking to claim online, just quickly, and some of them have forgotten their passwords and all that. Resetting passwords involves certain information that must be sent to the call center. On that side too, the call center is overwhelmed with both those inquiries and Ters inquiries.

I am tabulating some of the challenges we face as a background. If you go and send to the workplace, the problem is that some people are working at home and we are taking X number of people per day. Obviously we would normally help clients with things, and when the standout is from the employer, we will call the employer. You will see that now we cannot do that because we want to process as many clients as we can. So where we have to call, we put them aside so we can serve the one hundred percent, and then we just do those. So we have those challenges in the call center.

Now since then you will have a problem where a claim will take almost a year, one, I think the problem is that the lack of regular customer interaction and feedback is lacking in the current circumstances, because some of the customers will submit everything ( and that) will be fine. They will even receive a message saying that your claim has been sent to the appraiser for payment. But they still wait. The reason is that perhaps there is one thing (missing). A common document that is missing is the payment continuation form, which triggers the payment, whereas before the person would know, when going to the call center, that the customer service person, our officer, will tell them that, okay, now that you have submitted this, this is the next step, this is what you need to do.

So there is also that challenge that we obviously have to acknowledge.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: I can appreciate that your systems are overwhelmed, because you have been tasked with paying Ters claims, which the system was obviously not created for. But is this a case where Ters payments are prioritized over normal claims for reduced expenses and payments, and claims for maternity leave?

MAKHOSONKE BUTHELEZI: Not at all. That is not the case because, as I am talking to you, today we pay about R93.3 million of the normal amount to cover about 19,000 beneficiaries. That’s from normal statements. So it’s not because we prioritize benefits, because Ters payments are made at the head office here in Pretoria, and claims are processed online, as opposed to normal benefits where they are first made at the 126 provincial offices that we have, and they are done both online as well as physically.

So I think it’s just that, one, as I said, is the issue of not having full staff in the workplace. And second, limiting the number of people you can bring to workplaces, as well as our U-filing system for those who file claims online. We have a lot of them now, as there are limitations with physically filing claims at workplaces, so many people search for claims online.

What I should also mention with online claims is that people forget the user interface too …[9:25] form, which is essential for the processing of claims, to publish them online so that we can make a proper assessment and be able to pay.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Makhosonke, thank you very much for your time tonight. That was Makhosonke Buthelezi, the spokesperson for the FIU.

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