Department of Labour ’not short-staffed’, but complying with Covid protocols

The Mitchell’s Plain Labour Department is not short-staffed and is adhering to Covid-19 regulations.

The Mitchell’s Plain Labour Department is not short-staffed. The office is operating within the guidelines of the Disaster Management Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Covid-19 regulations, said provincial department spokesperson, Candice Van Reenen.

The office had prioritised the presence of frontline officials, to deal with applications relating to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), she said.

Ashraf Jaftha, 50, from Lentegeur said he was disappointed with the help at Mitchell’s Plain Labour Department.

In August 2020, he had applied for his UIF. His application was captured in September, he went back in December but has still not received his UIF payment. “Many people experience this, I am not the only one,” he said.

“People are still queuing in long lines. This is not fair towards the people as we have to wait long periods before we get paid out. We visit the Labour Department almost every day. I don’t know what to do anymore,” he said.

Staff there, he said, had told him the office was short-staffed.

A Beacon Valley, who asked not to be named, said she was so desperate to get help with her UIF application that she had arrived at the Department of Labour office at 3am – outside the current curfew of 9pm to 5am.

Thirteen people were only permitted in the waiting area at any given time, said Ms Van Reenen. “This is done to ensure compliance with social distancing and also for the maintenance of hygiene protocols in public areas.

“As the custodian of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our staff, as well as that of the clients frequenting our offices,” she said.

The sick, elderly and those applying for maternity benefits were still prioritised, she said, adding that there were designated screened-off areas for breastfeeding moms.

Managing social distancing in queues remained a challenge, said Ms Van Reenen. The office has painted clear lines outside the premises to direct and control the queues. This was also done to address the issue of clients jumping queues which often resulted in aggressive behaviour among clients, she said.

She added that while there were no backlogs with payments, delays were often experienced in the approval process as they found that documents were often not completed correctly or completely.

“We have also experienced employers who do not declare the employment status of their staff to the fund, which they are required to do monthly. This may relate to the delay in approval turn-around time for some claims,” she said.

She also urged people to make use of online services were possible. “It is only paternity applications and deceased benefit applications that are required to be registered at the labour centre. The online portal may also be used for the Continuation of Benefits and to register a Notice of Appeal,” she said.

U-filing is an online portal for the electronic submission of applications. To register for U-filing, clients are required to have a 13-digit barcoded ID, an email address for document correspondence and a cellphone number.

Online applications may be made at www.ufiling.gov.za for ordinary claims, maternity, illness benefits, reduced time and adoption benefits.