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Friday 10 March 2017

How To Claim UIF For Maternity Leave

Mrs Stealthy and Stealthy Junior. 
Unfortunately this post is not for everyone. If you are done having kids, or never plan on having kids (like those childless hedonists over at Just One Lap :)) then you can skip this post and go back to whatever other website you were browsing before you got here (I am secretly hoping it was the Not Financial Advice website :)).

To everyone else who is pregnant, whose partners are pregnant, or who one day thinks they may start a family, hopefully you will find this post helpful.

So without further ado, I bring to you, a tale that is true, of UIF claims due (okay my poetry sucks, sorry!)

Regular readers will know that our son was born last year. My wife got a fair chunk of maternity leave1 which she thoroughly enjoyed. She was most upset when, a few days ago, she had to report back to coal face (and join the rest of us minions blasting rock and carrying spades around...)

Let's rewind a few months - back to the days when I got a full nights sleep and managed to wear shirts that weren't covered in spit up and drool (I know, delightful right!)

South African Maternity Leave

After my wife fell pregnant, we decided to check the ins and outs of maternity leave. Now, if you were like us, you may be under the impression that a woman is entitled to a certain amount of paid maternity leave. Problem is you're wrong.

Turns out that South African Law entitles a woman to a fairly decent 4 months maternity leave - however the employer is under no obligation to pay the woman while on maternity leave. This was news to us!
SA women are entitled to 4 months maternity leave, but there's no law saying it needs to be paid.
Some companies are quite generous in that they do pay their employees while they are on maternity leave. We immediately dusted off my wife's employment contract. Aha, we can just check Appendix C for the leave policy....oh....hang on...there is no Appendix C, seems they didn't give my wife a copy.

Mrs Stealthy is....Stealthy!

Ok time for my wife to do some under cover investigation - you see she was in the middle of applying for a promotion, and as we all know "her pregnancy and impending maternity leave would most certainly not be a factor when they assessed her application, because the employer is not allowed to discriminate" (I hope you read that sentence with the equal amount of sarcasm I used when writing it.)

She didn't want to let the cat out the bag by asking her manager for the leave policy randomly...

So she promptly started making "friends" with some of the other pregnant women/recent moms to begin snooping about her company's leave policy (I guess all of this could have been avoided if she had insisted that her employer sent her the leave appendix referred to in her contract. Note to the Mrs. for future....)

Anyways, mission accomplished - Her digging uncovered that her 4 months would in fact be paid leave. Bonus!

But then it also turned out that her company actually goes above and beyond - not only because the obligatory 4 months would be paid, but in addition she would also have the option to take another 2 months - however these would be unpaid (fair enough).

We were quite chuffed at this result, and discussed it, and decided that the extra two months would be a great option for our son. We immediately began planning to put away some money every month so we would manage the two unpaid months (thank goodness a pregnancy is 9 months! Plenty time to plan and save).

We then came across another bonus which we had not factored in. During the unpaid months, my wife could claim UIF. Whilst hardly a kings ransom, this was money we had not planned for, and therefore a welcome bonus! (note that it is possible to claim up to a maximum of 4 months from UIF if any part of your maternity leave is unpaid.)

So How Much Does UIF Pay?

It depends how much you earn.

The percentage will be between 38% and 58% of your salary. The less you earn the higher the percentage of your salary you will get. It is also capped at R5 500 per month, but that shouldn't be a problem unless you are earning R14 800 (why haven't you retired yet :-P)

Tax And UIF

I get the feeling that in just about every post I write, the dreaded T-word gets mentioned. Luckily for this post it is in a good way.

There is no tax on UIF. Fantastic!

Two Options To Submit Your UIF Claim

Next I started investigating how to claim. I imagined the Department of Labour to be as much fun as the Department of Home Affairs and the Traffic Department2. I was somewhat surprised when I found out that a visit to the physical building, and the super fun queues that I was sure went with it, could actually be avoided.

This could be done in one of two ways:
  1. There are companies who, for a fee, will actually do the queuing and everything for you. The cheapest fee I found was R500 from Sweet Dreamz . Another quote I got was for R590 from Dryk Holdings via a query I logged on this website. Please note there could well be cheaper options, these are just the two companies which got back to us with a quote. Also, these quotes were from last year, so prices may well have changed. Note that I cannot vouch for the service levels of any of the companies as we never ended up using them. Finally note (wow that's a lot of notes) that I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies - because being affiliated with a maternity leave company would definitely deduct man points from my rapidly depleting stockpile!
  2. Believe it or not, the whole process can actually be done online (the method we used). You basically register an account at the Department of Labour's u-Filing website. You complete the application online, and then fire off some forms to your employer and Doctor, then send these forms back to the Department and your claim is then processed. 

How To Claim

We went the route of applying online. It is quite straightforward in theory:
  1. Register on the ufiling site (think efiling, but with a u). Go to www,ufiling.co.za and then click on Activate my ufiling account. Complete all the relevant information and your account will be created (you will need the usuals like ID number, Bank account number etc.). Unfortunately you have a limited amount of control on what your username will be - you can choose the first few characters, but they append a number on the end to make it nice and easy to remember (sarcasm).... (again like e-filing)
  2. After the account has been created you can submit an application. This brings up one of those online pdf's that you can edit (again kind of like e-filing - maybe the same Gupta company organisation developed both?). Just be aware that the pdf sometimes doesn't launch in some browsers  and you may need to do some I.T. wizardry to disable your pdf plugin. To keep things simple I used the best browser for downloading a better browser Internet Explorer.
  3. As you complete the different sections of the form, it will generate two emails which you will need to forward along - one to be completed by your Doctor, the other by your Employer.
  4. Forward the Medical Certificate email to your Doctor. The Doctor will complete the form and then you need to fax it to the Department.
  5. Forward the Income Received While On Leave Form to your employer - I guess HR is the right department. They will complete it and send some forms back to you. Then you need to fax it.
  6. Wait
  7. Wait some more. The indication we got was that the application could take 6-8 weeks to process thanks to a highly inefficient Department the large number of applications received.
  8. Get your moola!
You can check your application status at any time on the ufiling platform.

So that is pretty much how the application should go in theory. But there is a saying which I quite like:

In theory, what works in theory works in practice, but in practice it doesn't.

Turns out, our UIF claim went something like this....

Our UIF Claim

We submitted our application towards the beginning of December 2016 (apparently you need to do it before the child is 6 months old). We completed the online pdf's and it generated the forms we needed to send to our Doctor and to my wife's employer. At this point the status of our application looked like this:

Blurry picture 1

And now the fun began...

They needed us to send the completed Medical and Leave Income forms back to the Department. However, due to the doctors being closed and my wife's HR department mostly being on leave (December is maybe not the best time for these types of things...), we did not get anything back from them until early January. This resulted in the current application being cancelled. Our status screen looked a little something like this at beginning January:

Blurry picture 2

So then I figured we had to resubmit. By mid-January we were pretty much still in the same place - except now there were two case numbers associated with my wife's name.

Blurry picture 3

Anyways, by this point we had received the completed forms back from the Doctor and my wife's employer. So we promptly faxed them off to the number provided. Check in a few days later on the u-filing site, and we spot two problems:

Blurry picture 4

Firstly, the original case number had not been cancelled - because the Medical Certificate had been scanned in against this old number. Secondly it seemed they had only received the Medical Certificate and not the Leave Income form - which was quite an achievement seeing that both were sent in the same fax!

Anyways at this point I thought I had better call them to find out what was happening...It was a delightful call which started with me being on hold for only 30 minutes listening to some rather interesting music.... When I finally managed to speak to someone, I found out a nice quick cut with regards to submitting the forms which I will now share with you.

Turns out you can actually email the forms instead of fax (technology!) - email address uif.declarations@labour.gov.za - I definitely recommend this instead of faxing as they said the fax is not always reliable (well clearly, since our fax that contained both the medical and the employer declarations seemed to only contain the medical certificate....anyways.....)

So we promptly resent both forms via email. A week later..... and they had apparently still not received the Leave Income forms. Another phone call, woohoo, can't wait! At least this time I knew the on hold music well, so I could sing along.

The usual 30 minutes on hold before the friendly lady on the other side tells me that when we faxed the forms they were all together in one fax. So when they received the fax on their side, they only scanned the first page in. (Still doesn't explain why they didn't get the emailed forms.... anyways...)

Then we are also told that apparently we shouldn't have submitted the new claim because now the documents were scanned to the old number (well then they shouldn't have marked the other application as cancelled, not so?)

Anyway, the kind lady at the other end of the phone promised to get it all scanned in and sorted, and said the payment should happen after around 35 days from this point. Round about now I was quite sleepy after being on hold for so long, so I forgot to ask if that would be 35 working days or 35 days...

So the lady did her thing and our u-filing screenshot looks like this currently:

The final blurry picture

No payment yet, I will try to remember to update this post once payment is made to see how inefficient they are at meeting their 35 day promise...

D.I.Y. Or Get Someone Else To Do It?

So as you can see from my experience, the DIY route may not always go smoothly. Having said that, I think if we had to do this again it would go a lot better now that we kind of see how it all works.

Getting someone to do the application for you may save you some hassle. However you will probably find that paying someone else to do the application is going to require more or less the same amount of effort as doing it online - you will probably still need to fill in forms and get the same letters from the doctors and HR department.

I guess what these companies can offer is to probably get the process completed faster, and you may not need to phone the Department so many times - although that on hold music does sound tempting doesn't it?

I guess you can decide if the fee is worth it. In my opinion, save the R500 odd rand and go direct.

UIF - You Pay For It, Use It!

All full time employees pay UIF every month (check your payslip - it usually isn't a lot, but it's there, every month, being deducted). So If you pay the money, why not use the benefits!

It is not that difficult to claim, and I found the Department of Labour to be one of the better(ish) Government body's to deal with - although I think they still have some way to go...

I am very curious if anyone else has submitted a UIF claim recently? I would love to hear your experience - especially if it required a visit to the actual building *shiver*. On a scale of -10 to -1, how bad was it? :)

Till next time, Stay Stealthy!
 - ~ - ~

1 How is it that my wife gets 6 months of leave but I get 3 days? Government really needs to revisit this paternity leave thing! I am saddened by the amount of "firsts" I have already missed while at work :(

2 If you ever start thinking that South Africa is becoming a First World country, just one visit to either the Department of Home Affairs or the Traffic Department will remind you very quickly that we are indeed still very much a Third World country.