Workers are battling to collect unemployment benefits despite new technology

UIF App and phone-in system launched in September

| By and

Queues of people trying to claim UIF and get help for other issues are almost a permanent feature outside the labour department offices in Cape Town. Photo: Qaqamba Falithenjwa

  • Briefing Parliament in September last year, Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Commissioner Teboho Maruping promised a new app would make claiming from the fund much easier.

  • He said unemployment benefits should take 15 days to process.
  • The app and a free phone-in system were launched on 4 September.
  • But claimants GroundUp spoke to said they were still struggling to access their benefits.

People who have lost their jobs or are on maternity leave are struggling to access money owed to them by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) which they were compelled to contribute to while employed.

Those claiming UIF have been frustrated by the Department of Employment and Labour’s online registration system through which UIF is claimed. The system often reflects incorrect information or does not allow people to register as claimants.

In September last year UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) that a new UIF app allowing people to lodge claims online would reduce the lines at labour centres. He said unemployment benefits should take 15 days to process “if everything required was in place”.

The app and a new phone-in system (USS) were launched on 4 September. Maruping said then that this would “promote greater self-service for clients, reduce long queues in the labour centres and alleviate pressure on officials”.

“We are moving with the times to create a better, more capable UIF that leverages technology to respond to challenges on the ground and changes in the external environment,” he said.

But people interviewed by GroundUp queuing outside the labour department’s office in Plein Street, Cape Town on 7 December still said they were struggling to obtain their UIF benefits.

Sandisa Mtshula, a welder from Delft, said she had submitted her UIF claim in October, when she went into the department’s office and had her documents scanned.

Mtshula said a month later she had received an SMS stating “the system” had no record of her documents. She had returned in person “four or five times” to sort matters out, but because of long queues she had not been able to get inside again. On 7 December she expected to once again go home empty-handed. “Come back at five, I’ll still be here, I won’t be inside,” she said.

She said she didn’t know what she was supposed to do.

Alitta Twesi, who had travelled to the city centre from Khayelitsha, said she had been unemployed for five months after working for a cleaning company.

“I have been coming to the offices about four to five times and they keep telling me I must apply online, but the online system doesn’t work,” said Twesi. “Every time I try submitting an application online it always refuses to click ‘register’.”

As a result, she said, she was trying to get in-person service.

It was about 11am when GroundUp spoke to her, and she said she had been waiting outside the department’s office since 7.30am without getting inside.

There were about 40 other people waiting to get into the building to receive assistance.

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) and trade union federation COSATU, among others, have called for the UIF to be placed under administration.

“The systemic dysfunction has also resulted in lengthy delays in application processes, including via online systems, receiving incorrect information, or constant changes in requirements,” wrote BUSA in a public statement.

“Payments, when finally processed, are typically received long after the period of lost earnings, providing little financial support when needed most,” stated BUSA.

The UIF media office asked for multiple extensions when GroundUp requested information. Nearly a week after initially emailing them, no response has been received.

TOPICS:  Labour

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I applied with the normal portal before this new app was launched - it is the same old system I have used since February 2023 and I'm still waiting. I escalated my case to the top management. Nothing. Their system is dysfunctional.

Dear Editor

After my husband passed away in October 2022, my employment contract also expired. Still grieving, I couldn't even consider looking for a new job so I went back to school to complete my matric. During this time I applied online for UIF for myself as well as the death benefit as my late husband was still employed when he died. It has been over a year since applying for my UIF and about 8 months since applying for the death benefit. After many calls, escalations, emails, I am still waiting for approval and payout.

I contacted a labour consultant who, after looking at my employment status on the UIF portal, told me that the UIF system has not been updated and that I was still employed by my two previous employers. How is that possible when all the relevant paperwork was submitted?

I have had to rely on the kindness of others to support me during this time. I feel so let down by the system. I have been a UIF contributor for over 30 years. This is the first time in 25 years that I have had to apply for assistance. I guess being a faithful contributor means nothing today.

Dear Editor

I lost my job in November 2023. I applied for benefits online in January 2024 which were approved exactly a month later. But till today, 2 April 2024, I have not received payment. When I call the call centre, they say they are escalating but have no feedback. When I go to their Durban office, they tell me to sign something, so now I have signed two times without getting payment.

I could be using this money to look for employment and cover some of the expenses, but that is not happening.

Dear Editor

I am sure something is happening in the department and nobody is going to tell the truth. Either there's no money or the system is broken. How can they take so long to pay out the unemployed people?

Last week we were at the Bellville office. The system was off for three consecutive days! People are wasting their last Money to take taxis to various departments for their money and yet get no money. The system is failing all of us, and the President is doing nothing. Is he the party president or the people's president?

Dear Editor

I have applied for UIF and every time there’s a new excuse and always a wait for 7-14 days. I have been waiting for my money since Jan 2024 and up till today I have received nothing! I continuously have to submit other documents that they require, but all my documents were in order. I’m so gatvol of this place, but as soon as you work then they deduct the money without hesitation. I need my money! I have five children and I have been unemployed for 8 months now

Dear Editor

I stopped working in 2019 due to illness. I applied online for UIF in 2020 and I am still waiting - it's now April 2024. All the correct documents was sent to them many times. The call centre is not much help.

I get the same response when I phone them (every second week): "Your claim has not been approved yet."

Dear Editor

I was retrenched in 2023. I claimed via the portal and even escalated. Nothing. No response after paying UIF contributions for years and years. It’s now seven months with no income. I really don’t know what to do.

Dear Editor

I lost my job in September 2022. I submitted my documents within four days. Every time I call to get feedback, I am advised that no feedback has been received and I am told by the agent that they will escalate the issue. I am so frustrated! I have spent hundreds on phone calls and still no UIF funds received. Why does UIF get deducted off the salary if it is such a hassle to claim?

Beyond frustrated.

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