By Vanessa Papas
Justine Dawber, a HR Consultant at NKR, a HR firm, explains how to access the government relief packages available for small business owners.
The COVID-19 crisis has far-reaching implications for all South Africans, not least small business owners. If you own or run a small business, you may have been forced to close down some or all of your operations and business processes, especially during the national lockdown, with serious effects on your business and employees.
Because it’s not business as usual.
As a business owner, not only do you have to worry about how you will return to a state of productivity after this crisis has passed, you are also probably deeply concerned about how you will pay investors, creditors, and your employees when you are not generating a profit or, in the case of a business that has had to close completely, any income at all.
What measures are available for financial relief?
From loans to payment suspensions, swift action by government, different industry bodies (such as tourism, the arts, and the informal trading sector) and insurance providers, has meant that there are a number of measures in place to assist business owners to navigate (and hopefully survive) this difficult time. Depending on individual circumstances, these include measures such as tax breaks for employers and employees, tax relief from SARS via the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI), adjustments to repayment terms with providers, and the possibility of negotiating rental terms with landlords.
What government measures are available to assist small business owners?
Government has made available two main benefit schemes for small businesses – the Debt Relief Finance Scheme (to help small businesses in financial distress) and the Business Growth / Resilience Facility (to help small businesses who are able to engage in supply production during the crisis). For both of these, companies first need to be registered with the Department of Small Business Development at https://smmesa.gov.za/ to benefit.
TERS – Offering relief for your employees
Many business owners are concerned over how they will pay salaries during this difficult time and some have already declared that they cannot do so, leaving employees without their monthly salary. For employees in distressed businesses, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has launched a special Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS). This fund allocated payments to permanent employees who are not able to work as a result of the lockdown or being placed on unpaid leave, or whose companies cannot afford to pay them salaries during this time (as opposed to suffering a loss of income). Applications are open until the end of lockdown.
- Who can claim? Compliant contributors to the UIF – these businesses can apply for the TERS benefit on behalf of their employees.
- Under what circumstance can they claim? Where operations or part thereof have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic for ≥ 3 months for those who were employed prior to 27/03 and will suffer a loss of income.
- What is the value of the claim? The benefit is calculated on a sliding scale (38% – 60% of an employee’s salary). A relevant salary is max R17 712 per employee i.e. maximum benefit amount is R6 730 and the minimum benefit amount is R3 500. Employers may supplement this amount as long as it does not exceed the employee’s normal salary.
- Can an employer claim back? If you have already paid your employees, you can still claim and retain the value of the benefit that has already been paid out. It is recommended that the payslips include a line for “TERS Benefit” to avoid any disputes.
- How will the benefit be paid? It will paid to the Employer, the relevant Bargaining Council, or Employees (ONLY ≥ 10 Employees). The MOA is in force for 3 months from the date the application is accepted and benefits will paid in relation to 3 separate time periods of 30 days from the start of lockdown.
- How to claim? Through the UIF-Covid-19 TERS National Disaster Application System online portal – https://uifecc.labour.gov.za/covid19/. Please ensure you use your UIF registration number (from the DoL) and not your UIF reference number (from SARS) in your application. Your UIF registration should be in this format: 1234567/8 (as opposed to U123456789).
Stay up to date
Due to the unprecedented nature of the COVID crisis, the TERS application process has undergone a number of changes since its inception. This has caused some frustration among business owners but rest assured that the process is open and underway. This does also mean that the process is subject to change again at any time and, if they qualify, we encourage business owners to keep up to date with the latest changes, as provided by reliable, reputable sources, to ensure a smooth application process.
DISCLAIMER: Please note the above information has been rendered for general information purposes only. We recommend you consult with your advisors before taking action. We accept no responsibility for any action taken as a result of the supplied information.