What UIF means to my domestic worker
After more than 12 years of fast-paced life in Johannesburg, my family and I are relocating to the country for what we assume will be a simpler life. Putting that all into one sentence makes it feel manageable, even easy. But easy it is not. Moving our lives has proven to be one of the greatest challenges we have faced as a family. Selling a home, finding a home, organising work, changing schools, saying goodbye to family and friends – these events range from difficult to traumatic. Because, while everyone expects the administrative hardship that comes with digging up roots and replanting them somewhere else, I believe the emotional impact always exceeds expectations. At least, it has felt this way every time we’ve said goodbye to someone dear to us, and especially when we said goodbye to Jeannat.
Jeannat is our domestic worker – a term that doesn’t do justice to the role she has played in our lives. She has seen us at our best and our worst, and we have experienced the same of her. She has helped raise our children, loved our animals, been there whenever we have needed her. We have shared her joys and tribulations and helped her work towards achieving her personal goals. But now this uniquely intimate relationship has come to an end. We are days away from leaving this city and it is possible that we may never see Jeannat again. The separation itself is heartbreaking, but it is compounded by our concerns for her financial wellbeing. Though she and we have tried, and continue to try, to find her new work, we have until now been unsuccessful. Any financial assistance we have given her will run out in time and she is years away from drawing her pension. We have ensured that her family will be taken care of should anything happen to her, but that cover doesn’t put food on the table every month. Working through this problem with Jeannat her first question was, ‘What is happening with UIF?’ The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) is a state-funded social support programme that assists workers who find themselves unemployed or between jobs. Provided she wasn’t dismissed for poor conduct an employee drawing from the UIF would, for a limited time, receive a portion of the value of her previous income in the form of a monthly benefit. We have previously looked at the pros and cons of the UIF, but if you are the employer of a domestic worker who works for you more than 24 hours a month, there is a legal – and I believe moral – obligation to register her for UIF. I have to admit that I’ve had my own concerns about the operation of the UIF, but now that Jeannat is in a vulnerable position I am grateful that we have kept up our UIF payments. For a small amount every month, we have secured her some degree of peace of mind.
For guidance on UIF registration consult the Department of Labour website, but here are some extra tips: Apart from the fax/email options on the UIF website, your UI-8D and UI-19 forms should also be mailed to Newui8registrations@labour.gov.za. The UIF might tell you to call back in 10 working days to confirm the receipt of your application (and yes, you really must call to confirm) but expect to wait anything up to 5 weeks. If you’re registering after your domestic worker has already been working for you for some time, your UIF contributions will be backdated to when she/he started working for you. This is important because it will impact the amount that she/he can claim from the fund.