The struggle to claim from the UIF continues

Getting through to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) is “like banging your head against a brick wall”. This is how one frustrated claimant who applied for benefits over a year ago with no luck feels, and Moneyweb can attest to this.

This month alone, we’ve heard from a business owner and two employees, all of whom have nothing good to say about their claims process with the UIF.


All three complaints received relate to claims applications submitted to the UIF over a year ago, with one even going as far back as 2020.

Read/listen: UIF battles with retrenchment and maternity claims [Aug 2021]

A key thread among all the complaints is the feeling of being sent from pillar to post by the fund, a process characterised by poor communication, an endless cycle of resubmitting documents, and poor assistance from call centre agents – for those who got through, at least.


One frustrated reader, who has had many run-ins with the fund’s call centre agents, relayed a sense of hopelessness after applying for a UIF benefit over 18 months ago.

“I am always made promises that a ‘team leader’ will call me back. That NEVER happens. The call centre agents tell me that there is NOTHING they can do if the Assessors do not give them feedback. I am told that there is NO turnaround time for the claim to be approved,” the reader says in an email to Moneyweb.

“I don’t know what to do anymore as there is no assistance whatsoever. I have even reported my case to the complaints department, and still nothing has been done.”

The UIF, which falls under the Department of Employment and Labour, is mandated to provide short-term unemployment insurance to all workers who qualify for unemployment-related benefits. Workers can claim from the UIF for illness, maternity, unemployment and death-related benefits.

Unanswered questions

Moneyweb contacted the UIF early last week to get its side of the story as to why it was proving so difficult for some to receive their dues from the fund, but these attempts were unsuccessful.

Communication with the fund’s director of communications, Trevor Hattingh, failed to bear fruit.

Instead, like the frustrated complainants, getting answers from the fund this past week has felt impossible.

Read: Give us our UIF money [Aug 2021]

Initially, delays in responding to questions were attributed to what seems like an extraordinary effort to collate data from the entity’s different units. But after a week of following up and requesting updates on the estimated response time, text messages were met with no response and phone calls went unanswered.

No answers to our questions …

Here are some of the questions the fund failed to respond to:

  1. Why are we still seeing a high volume of complaints regarding the UIF payment system?
  2. How significant are the payment backlogs at the UIF currently? And how far back does this backlog go? Is it possible to break down the backlog according to the different benefits – i.e. employment, death, illness and maternity?
  3. What is the volume of claims the UIF receives on average per month? Is it possible to indicate the proportional split of these claims according to the different benefits?
  4. What is the average turnaround time to resolve complaints? Has this improved or declined over the past year?
  5. What is the ratio of assessors to the number of claims received by the UIF in any given month? Is this ratio efficient for resolving claims timeously?
  6. What is the value of claims the UIF has paid out so far this year, and how does this compare to the value of outstanding claims?
  7. How big of a role do fraudulent claims play in disrupting the UIF payment system? Are fraudulent payments still a major issue at the UIF?
  8. What is the value of fraudulent claims that the UIF has identified so far this year? How much of this amount has been retrieved?
  9. We have also received complaints concerning the call centre. People have complained that they’re unable to get through to a call centre agent. What seems to be the issue with the centre?
  10. How many call centre agents does the UIF have, and how many calls would an agent have to take on average daily?
  11. How is the UIF improving its operations so people receive their benefits timeously?

Incompetence a major issue

Pretoria-based Malaika Human Capital Consultants told Moneyweb on Tuesday that the firm gave up taking on clients struggling with UIF claims late last year because working with the department was such a struggle and no longer feasible.

“We took a decision last year in October not to go ahead with that [UIF claims] anymore … because we’d follow up and we wouldn’t get feedback,” founder Helen Nel told Moneyweb.

“It was the frustration of working with [the UIF] and with the Department of Labour and not getting feedback and struggling for the clients to be paid out. It was really an ongoing, frustrating process,” she added.


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Nel recalled having trouble with UIF’s slow system and what she believes was incompetent staff.

She said at times she would have to work on cases at night, because during the day the UIF system would be too slow for her to work efficiently.

Malaika Human Capital Consultants is a human resources, payroll and labour consultancy firm that began offering UIF-related services in 2020.

At the time, the labour department had implemented the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters). The government implemented the special benefit scheme to help the UIF assist individuals who were temporarily unable to work or work at full capacity due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Read/listen: UIF: 115 Ters fraud cases still under investigation

According to Nel, the firm, which serviced clients in Gauteng and the Western Cape, had better luck assisting companies with their UIF-related affairs than it did in assisting individual claimants.

“In terms of the POPI [Protection of Personal Information] Act, they also didn’t want to give information to third parties, although we are registered labour practitioners to assist clients with their UIF,” said Nel.

“The clients would wait months on end, and then they would receive messages that they would receive payment within the next five days … and then the clients wouldn’t receive the payments.

“When they or we would enquire about it, they [the UIF] would close the claims.”

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She added that the back-and-forth with the UIF got so frustrating that it sometimes threatened the firm’s relationship with clients, jeopardising its credibility and brand.

At this point, she said it became clear it was time to exit the UIF business to protect her company’s reputation.

“At the end of the day, it comes back to my company, the name of my company, and people would say, ‘You’re lying to us’ and ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’. At the end of the day, it was not worth putting my company’s name at risk.”

Listen as Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk speaks to UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping about the state of affairs at the fund:

You can also listen to this podcast here.