Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Good and Proper

I realize that lately I've written several posts complaining about South African bureaucracy and inefficiencies. Hopefully these rants are not making you think that I am unhappy living here because I'm not at all. Actually I'm quite happy. There are so many things to love about life here and our experiences so far have been overwhelmingly positive. But yet again I am facing a situation that is challenging and at the same time amusing.

When we first arrived a relocation company assisted us in getting settled and provided advice on many practical matters. People from the relocation company took me around to look at houses, helped us figure out how to register our vehicles and more. One of the things they told us was that we needed to pay into the unemployment insurance fund (UIF) each month on behalf of our cleaning woman and our gardener. I would be willing to bet that many (if not most) South Africans do not pay into this fund just like many (if not most) South Africans don't pay e-tolls. But, because Mr. Deep is an accountant and because in America bad things happen to you if you don't follow the rules and pay what you are supposed to pay we thought it best to pay into the fund.

Unfortunately over a year has passed since we moved into our home and we have yet to pay into the fund. And it's not due to lack of trying. The fund seems to be so poorly managed that we have been unable to pay. Yes, we are willing to give money away and yet we have been unsuccessful in doing so.

Step one to paying into the fund is to get an employer registration number from the UIF. Over the past year, I have requested an employer registration number at least six times.  I have used various available communication methods for these requests including phone, email and fax. I have spoken to several UIF staff members on the phone but still have not received a registration number. When I do get someone on the phone, they ask me to again email and fax the forms. I comply and resend the information and then the UIF goes radio silent until the point in time that I work up the energy to contact them to again try to obtain the registration number.

I asked two people I know if they pay the UIF. The first person I asked is a fellow expat and she said she tried numerous times to obtain a registration number but was not successful. At least I know it's not just me. The second person I asked was a South African. First, I had to remind her what UIF was and then she kind of shrugged and said she has never paid it.

On the surface it seems like a good idea to pay into this fund. It would be beneficial if hardworking people could have some money set aside for them if they become unemployed. But, I can't imagine that if it is seemingly impossible to obtain a registration number that things are running all that smoothly over at UIF. I really doubt that the UIF is paying out claims in a diligent manner to those poor people who are requesting assistance.

I wasn't going to write about this situation because I hate to admit in writing for all to see that we are not following the rules, even if I have a folder of evidence illustrating my efforts and correspondence. But now, something has occurred which is too precious not to share.

On February 26, I received a customer service satisfaction survey via email from the UIF. The subject line read "Was our Service Good and Proper?" This email text followed.

Dear valued client

At the UIF we are committed to providing you with excellent customer service, and we rely on your feedback to continuously improve.

We would like to find out more about your recent interaction with the UIF. Please take a few moments to complete our brief survey - your participation is of great value to us.

This survey will take approximately 2 minutes to complete.

Yes, the survey will take two minutes to complete BUT you will be waiting the rest of your life to receive any assistance from the UIF. Clearly their service has not been good or proper seeing as over 12 months had passed and I still don't have the employer registration number.

I (naively) thought maybe if I completed the survey with horribly low ratings and explained my situation in the comment box that it might get the attention of a supervisor and maybe that then the issue would be resolved. So I completed the survey checking boxes that rated service as "worst," indicating that my "issue was still not resolved" and noting that service was "taking longer than expected. " I also shared that working with the UIF was "very difficult" and that my needs were met "not at all." I then used the comment box to provide the details of my problem as well as my contact information.

On March 30 I received the same survey for a second time. I diligently repeated the exercise and panned the service that I had received or more accurately not received from UIF and I again submitted the survey.

Last week I received the same survey for the third time. This time I am not going to bother to fill it out as I know I'll have numerous future chances to complete it if I decide to do so.

I have to say the UIF is good at one thing. They are good at sending out surveys.


  1. Ha! I would gladly share MY UIF fund account with you, seeing as it seems I cannot CANCEL mine. I still to this day (about 3 years later) receive monthly emails telling me that my new payment into the account is due. I have tried to cancel it numerous times, providing proof that I have moved abroad, but to no avail. They faithfully send me the monthly email. Weird though, signing up for UIF payments was the one thing that worked relatively smoothly for me. Have you done it the way I've described it here with those two forms? http://www.joburgexpat.com/2010/11/registering-your-domestic-for-uif.html. I'm sure you have but maybe worth looking at regardless. Or you could try a payroll service, but then you have to pay them a fee too. And, as you say, there is no comfort level that they in fact would ever pay the poor worker their insurance should it come to it.

    1. Yes, I filled out the forms and faxed them in and then began my year long follow up plan. Do you think you'll continue to get reminders to pay UIF and renew your TV license for the rest of your life? 😀

  2. Update: We received our UIF employer number yesterday (July 18, 2016.) We moved into our house and hired our cleaning lady and gardener in April of 2015 and I have been trying since that time to pay the UIF. The letter we received containing the number was dated March, 2016 but the email containing the letter was only received yesterday.


About Me

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.