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A guide to UIF applications for small business owners

UIF applications can seem daunting, but these tips may help you troubleshoot problems and successfully apply.

Many South African businesses have had to turn to UIF and the Covid-19 TERS to support their staff through the COVID-19 lockdown. The UIF application process is laid out on the official website but many business owners have faced challenges in processing their applications and being paid out for the benefit of their employees.

We chatted with Grant Greeff, CEO of Open Route, to find out more about the process and his experience applying for benefits under the  Covid-19 TERS. 

Remember that these are constantly evolving procedures so keeping an eye out for changes is important. 

COVID-19 TERS Benefit

The basic premise is that Employers are able to apply for the Temporary Relief Scheme on behalf of registered Employees and be paid out for a percentage of their payroll costs. Employers are then able to distribute those funds to the impacted employees. 

Qualifying criteria:

  1. The Employer has, as a direct result of Covid19 pandemic, closed its operations, or a part of its operations, for 3 (three) months or a lesser period. 

  2. Impacted Employees must have been in the Employer’s employ on 27 March 2020, and must have suffered, or will suffer, a loss of income as a result of the closure.

  3. The Employer must have been registered with the UIF before the crisis started.

How much is paid?

*Note there are various calculations that have been published and only on successful application will you be certain of  how much you will be reimbursed.

  1. The amounts paid will be a percentage of an Employee’s salary, according to a sliding scale from 38% (highest earners) to 60% (lowest earners).

  2. The maximum you will get is R6,730 a month. The sliding scale stops at R17 702 which means workers earning more than this will only get the 38% maximum benefit (R6,730).

  3. The minimum amount will not be below the minimum wage of R3,500.

  4. If the Employer can still afford to partially pay employees then the TERS can top up their pay but Employees cannot earn more than their current salaries.

  5. Covid-19 TERS currently covers the lockdown period of five weeks. 

The basic UIF application process for qualifying Employers to follow is set out below:

  1. Register on the online portal

  2. Login and follow the automated prompts. You will need to fill in your employer UIF reference number, trade name and contact details.

  3. Accept the terms and conditions of a memorandum of agreement and a letter of undertaking by clicking “accept”.

  4. Upload confirmation of your employer bank account in the form of a PDF.

  5. Provide evidence/payroll as proof of last three months Employee(s) salary(ies).

  6. Add the details of the Employees you are applying on behalf of. You will need their ID numbers or passport numbers if they are foreign nationals.

Sounds simple enough right? However, you may face challenges in getting through the process and completing applications. 

Here is how Grant Greeff navigated the system for South African employees and received payment within 36 hours. 

  • Unreliable UIF email addresses are a major problem. There are a number of email addresses that businesses are advised to send documentation for UIF applications. However, this relies on a human processing potentially hundreds of thousands of documents. We didn’t get very far using these emails. 

  • We opted for the online COVID-19 TERS application system 💪 How does one handle +100,000 UIF applications? Not with a human, but with a computerised and automated system. The employers who have been paid that I’m aware of, have used the online application system.

  • We registered as an Employer/Company and selected the “Pay to Employer” option.
  • If you have lots of employees, one of the methods available to you is to upload a CSV file containing all the relevant information. However, you might have noticed that these take a long time to reflect on your profile. (If they ever do). It appears that these files are also going into a queue for human processing, and we also abandoned this process. 

  • Adding each employee individually is what worked for us ultimately. Batch uploads are easier and quicker but from a few tests that we did, we realised that individual uploads were the best way to get the UIF database to update in real time. 

  • We added R0.00 for the “salary during lock down”. At the end of March, we technically laid-off every single employee (including me and my partner). Why? For 3 reasons:
    • (i) So that every employee would qualify for the normal UIF benefits if TERS was stopped/ended and we couldn’t pay them. This would let them immediately claim from UIF via or manual submission or email
    • (ii) Under a lay-off situation, every employee has a right to their position if/when the business recovers to a point such that the business may re-employ the employee (a lay-off gives a person this right, while retrenchment is permanent with no right to the position any longer)
    • (iii) The UIF was expected to be delayed in paying benefits so we structured it so that we could advance our team their wages/salary and then reduce this loan by the UIF amount paid… Yes, technically the team member owes us anything we’ve paid above the UIF benefit because it is technically a loan, but our strategy has and will remain to take care of every person through the pandemic, so we will write it off in future.
  • After individually adding 10 employees, we would click “Check and Submit” and then add more employees individually in batches of 10 to avoid too much time loss in case the site crashed while we were busy. 

  • We submitted on a Saturday evening and received payment the following Tuesday morning for our South African employees. Sadly, our non-South African team members received an error report “No ID found”. From my understanding, UIF cannot automatically process Foreign Passport employees BUT it still allows you to submit on the online application system. So because foreign employees aren’t being paid, UIF asks you to send 3 months proof of payroll with UI19 form to another bulk email address … I anticipate the UIF will eventually update their software to process the integration between the application system and their records of foreign employees which they have already.*

*In the interim, check out the R350 that your foreign employees could qualify for here

**Senior UIF employees have provided some answers regarding foreign employees. Sign up and view their livestream below to learn more.


  • Don’t have your UIF number or want to double-check it? Simply input your PAYE number here and you’ll get your UIF number back immediately.

  • Do you want to find out
    •  i) if you’ve been paid and; 
    • ii) how much you have been paid? Input your UIF number here and you’ll be shown your payment status immediately.
  • Find the direct email addresses of the Regional Heads for Employment & Labour Centres here.

Take a look at Grant’s LinkedIn post here for answers to a few extra FAQs that you might have. 


Please note that the above does not constitute financial or legal advice. This is our interpretation of the requirements and suggestions of how to apply them. Any reliance on this information is at your own discretion and Yoco and Open Route and their respective affiliates, cannot be held liable for any claims whatsoever arising from your reliance of this information. 

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