Using TERS to alleviate financial anxiety during lockdown

Using TERS to alleviate financial anxiety during lockdown

As the COVID-19 lockdown progresses, we find that uncertainty and anxiety are on the increase. We find ourselves in a situation the likes of which no one has ever experienced before. Both employers and employees are equally anxious about issues such as leave, salaries and operational costs.

We have been inundated with queries from people whose employers are requiring them to utilise their paid annual leave during the lockdown. Employees are concerned about this as many have already booked (and paid) for leave during December and they will now, effectively, not be able to take that leave.

The Department of Labour issued a directive that clarifies the types of leave recognised by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) which includes, but is not limited to, annual leave, sick leave and family responsibility leave which may be applicable to the employee’s absence as a direct result of the Covid-19 lockdown. This directive clearly states that an employer may indeed request that employees take their annual leave during this period as the BCEA lawfully allows employers to determine the time when employees may take their annual leave.

Regardless of the above, the department has urged employers not to request employees to use their annual leave, but to rather make use of the financial assistance that the department has made available by means of the COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). This allows employers to apply for benefits during the lockdown period. According to the Directive on Covid-19 TERS that was printed in the Government Gazette No 43161, it is anticipated that “companies will have to shut down and employees laid off temporarily” during the lockdown and that “employees may lose income”.

The question was raised as to whether this relief is only available to companies that are properly registered. Later in the same directive, reference is made to benefits being payable to “Contributors to have lost income due to the Covid-19 pandemic”. Since the definitions of contributor, employer and employee are very broad in the Unemployment Insurance Act, this cannot be limited to only companies and their employees. The salary benefit will be capped at a maximum amount of R 17 712 per employee per month paid according to the income replacement sliding scale (38% to 60%) as stipulated in the Act. The maximum amount payable is R6 731, calculated on a salary of R17 712.

It is important to note that a benefit will not be paid to employees who are being paid by the employer, but it may be possible to apply for a shortfall in salary, should the employer be paying only part of the employee’s salary. The following is required in order to apply for the benefit:

  • A letter of authority on the letterhead of the employer that authorises the person to apply on behalf of the employer;
  • The Department has a standard Memorandum of Agreement that it sends out and that needs to be signed by the UIF and the employer and attached to the application;
  • All information about the employer as requested in the application form;
  • Three-months of payroll information;
  • Confirmation of bank details (supported by bank statements);
  • Applications to be sent to [email protected]

Des Squire is a Managing Member of AMSI & Associates cc in association with MHH Consulting.

The difference between responsibility and choice

The difference between responsibility and choice

WE HAVE the right to choose between what we know to be right or wrong. Ignorance is no excuse.

Choice indicates “a right to act and the power to choose”. Choice is “the act of choosing”. This indicates that we have a right to choose between two or more situations or things. Choosing can be defined as “selecting from all that are available”, “making decisions”, “acting as seen fit” or “to act on preference”.

The power to choose rests with the individual. The person has the right to make an informed decision based on knowledge and experience. Making informed decisions requires acting with responsibility. With responsibility comes accountability. Once the choice is made, we are responsible for the choice and are accountable for the action taken and the outcome of those actions.

Responsible is defined as “being capable of rational conduct” or “morally accountable for actions”. Accepting responsibility, therefore, indicates that a person accepts that they are morally accountable for their actions. In whatever we do in life, be it personal or business related, having the ability to accept responsibilities is essential.

A teacher is responsible for the well-being and behaviour of pupils. Parents are responsible for the behaviour, upbringing and education of their children. Supervisors and managers are responsible for the staff under their control, applying company policies and procedures, achieving results with and through others and for upholding the vision and values of the organisation. Each and every employee is responsible for doing the work they are paid to do. Each one of us is personally responsible for our own progression in business and in life.

As we go through life each one of us, whether we want it or not, will be placed in situations where or attitude to responsibility will be put to the test. Our response to such situations will depend on our understanding of responsibility and our approach and attitude towards responsibility. There are three forms of responsibility we need to take into consideration. They are responsibility we are born with, responsibility we are given and responsibility we assume.

We are all born with certain responsibilities. This is exemplified by the way we accept responsibility for our daily actions and behaviour. No one gave us this responsibility; no one had to tell us we had it. Personal responsibility comes naturally. We accepted that we were born with certain attributes and qualities of character that developed as we grew and matured. We made certain decisions and we accepted responsibility for these decisions. As we go through life we are given responsibilities by others. Your parents tell you to be home at a certain time and trust you to do so. They are giving you responsibility.

You are placed in a position of trust where confidential information is available to you. You are placed in that position and are responsible for upholding the trust relationship. Finally, there is assumed responsibility. This is when a person makes a personal decision to do something about a situation. They have not been given authority to take action, but because of the situation they assume authority and accept the responsibility.

A hazard, for example, exists in a workplace situation where it is not the employee’s direct area of responsibility. The employee realises a danger exists, assumes responsibility and tries to remedy the situation. When a person assumes responsibility, they are automatically held accountable. Being prepared to assume responsibility and the inevitable accountability is the true sign of a good leader and manager.

When considering promotions in the workplace, managers will consider to what extent a person exemplifies an ability to accept responsibility and to be held accountable. More importantly, a manager will consider and weigh up situations where potential candidates for promotion have demonstrated an ability to assume responsibility.

The ability to assume responsibility is an area where most employees and individuals fail in business and in life. The general attitude is one of “it is no my job”, “it’s not my problem” and “it is not my responsibility”. This is short-sighted and indicates an inability and unwillingness to go beyond what is required. Failing to assume responsibility indicates an inability to apply innovative thinking, a lack of drive and a lack of motivation.

In many instances managers fail to cultivate this critical trait and to encourage employees to be innovative and to assume responsibility as and when a need arises. Learn to assume responsibility and be prepared to be held accountable if you want to progress in your career and to excel in life.

Des Squire is a managing member at Amsi and Associates. Call 082 800 9057 or email: [email protected].

How to conduct effective performance management meetings

How to conduct effective performance management meetings

Performance appraisal and performance management are common in most companies, but in many instances, the two are confused and managers are ill-equipped to use them effectively. 

Performance appraisal normally happens on an annual basis and may include half yearly or quarterly reviews. The appraisal is intended as a discussion session between manager and subordinate to discuss how the employee is performing in terms of Key Performance Areas (KPAs). 

In some instances, managers have no idea how to effectively carry out a performance appraisal meeting or they lack the required interpersonal skills to do so. These sessions are then used to point out problems with performance that have been going on over time. The manager uses the appraisal session as a fault-finding session and raises issues that should have been raised outside of the appraisal session. This is where performance appraisal falls down and it is why employees hate these sessions. 

Performance management on the other hand is something that normally takes place when the manager meets the employee to set the guidelines and parameters for performance or when a performance problem occurs. What is important is that the manager or supervisor needs to make sure he/she outlines, discusses and agrees with the employee what is expected and the need for continuous performance at the agreed level. 

In the event of a performance problem, the manager must make sure that he/she is dealing with the correct issue and that the actual problem has been identified. 

A performance management and/or improvement meeting should take place at which the employee and manager have a constructive discussion to clarify the work performance to be achieved or improved on, or the standard that should be met. This discussion takes place in the form of ongoing performance counselling and may be used in counselling associated with disciplinary action. At such meetings, the manager must outline the support and resources that will be offered to the employee and where necessary, what arrangements will be made for retraining of the employee.  

The manager develops with the subordinate a performance plan or an improvement plan that is acceptable to both. The overall purpose and outcome is to help the employee to achieve the desired level of performance. The employee should be advised of the consequences if the agreed standards are not met. 
A performance improvement plan will differ from the annual performance appraisal process as the former is ongoing and can be implemented at any stage of the business year.

Employees who are performing their jobs effectively and meeting the expectations of the performance development process will not need to participate in performance improvement sessions, but must be continually reassured that their performance is noted and commended. 

After a performance improvement meeting, the manager should monitor and provide feedback to the employee regarding his or her performance that relates back to what was agreed. Should there be no improvement, the manager may take further disciplinary action in line with the company’s disciplinary process.

At an effective performance management meeting, the manager should discuss the following:

• Performance standard to be met or improved on. Give specific examples;
• Outline, discuss and agree with the employee what is expected and the fact that it must be consistent;
• Explain the level of support and resources that will be provided to assist the employee;
• Discuss the plan for providing feedback and specify the measurements to be used in evaluating progress;
• Explain the consequences if performance standards are not met.

Managers should be committed to helping their staff improve performance – and that will be best achieved through counselling for performance improvement.

Des Squire is a managing member at AMSI and Associates. Call 082 800 9057 or e-mail [email protected]

OPINION: How to reconfigure education and training in South Africa

OPINION: How to reconfigure education and training in South Africa

THE education and training sector is undergoing major changes, which has resulted in a lot of speculation regarding its future.

Some good things are happening and are likely to happen over the next few months and years. In particular, I love the idea of a Grade 9 point of exit for a learner who feels that a technical education will be more appropriate than an academic education. Everyone involved in education, training and skills development has, as Theo Garrun, the former Workplace editor, said: “a vital task on their hands and need to change their mindset if they want South African to compete on the global stage”. My appeal is let us work together to get it right once and for all. Raymond Patel, a former CEO of merSETA, speaking at the World Skills Competition in Canada said: “It is clear we spend too much time and effort training the softer skills, while what is needed is an emphasis on the trades and technology based skills that are sorely needed in our economy.”

To get back on track, now is the time for change. Now is the time for all parties to ensure that we deal with current issues in order to take care of future requirements and global developments. We need to get the education, training and skills development effort working for the good of all role-players. However, to do so requires communication by all parties, where all parties start listening to try to understand the other point of view. The future of education and training in South Africa requires an all-inclusive approach where articulation is permitted, but above all encouraged and understood by all. We are in a transition phase and transition requires a large degree of expression.

The following recommendations are made to help improve things:

  • The reopening of all teachers’ training;
  • The training of all teachers based on General Education and Training (GET) and Higher Education and Training (HET) subject matter to ensure that they are properly qualified;
  • The Minister of Basic Education must reintroduce training of all GET learners in reading, writing and arithmetic as a basic minimum, together with other curriculum subject matter. Basic arithmetic should be compulsory, relevant and appropriate to the life skills needs of the learners up to Grade 5. From Grade 5 to 8, a higher level may be chosen as an elective subject;
  • Before completion of the GET band (during Grade 8/9 years), learners should be encouraged by means of open days, exhibitions, professionally conducted career guidance sessions, “bring a child to work” efforts and so on, to make informed decisions in terms of education and career direction. The objective will be to sell the concept and benefits of a technical education at technical, vocational education and training (TVET) colleges as opposed to pursuing an academic education at mainstream schools. The learners and their parents need to be given a much better understanding of the choices available. As Patel pointed out: “We need to impress on our youth that these (trades and technology) are noble careers and a university (academic) education is not always the best route to follow.”
  • The benefits of attending and the professionalism of TVET institutions must be encouraged, promoted and supported. Learners who decide to take this direction on completion of Grade 9 could be subsidised by government as a means of encouraging learners to pursue a technical or trade qualification. Perhaps there could be a 50/50 split between the government and skills levies.
  • The link between TVET colleges and natural progression to universities of technology must be explained and promoted. In addition, articulation related to university of technology subject matter and traditional universities must be established and promoted.
  • At the HET level after Grade 12, learners should be encouraged to take a “gap year” to be spent in a business environment or to undergo a one-year learnership. Companies should be encouraged to facilitate this by tax concessions as we currently have for learnerships. The young school-leaver should receive a subsistence allowance during this period subsidised from the skills levies;
  • The HET level will then carry on based on the chosen career direction making use of universities and universities of technology. The government should subsidise all HET students and consider a higher subsidy for those who enrol in technical or trade-related degree courses.
  • Des Squire is the managing member at AMSI and Associates. Email: [email protected].

Organising framework for occupations – what it means for employee relations

Organising framework for occupations – what it means for employee relations

THE National Qualifications Framework Bill provides for a fully integrated and needs-driven occupational learning system that will meet industry needs.

To achieve that, extensive use will be made of an Organising Framework for Occupations. The Framework will set the base for linking various occupations to specific skills and will help in identifying further training needs.

The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations will use the Framework as the basis for developing occupational qualifications to meet the needs of specific industries.

The Department of Labour, with the help of international organisations, introduced an Organising Framework for Occupations in February 2005 to align all skills development activities in South Africa.

The Framework is a skills-based classification system that encompasses all occupations in South Africa. The classification of occupations is based on skills levels and skills specialisation that make it easy to find a specific occupation within the framework.

A job is seen as a set of roles or tasks to be performed by a worker.

An occupation describes a series of jobs or specialised tasks performed by a worker that can be grouped together for the purpose of this classification.

Identified occupations are classified according to two main criteria, namely skill level and skill specialisation. The concept of a skill is used in the context of competency rather than a description of a task or function.

The skill level of a job or occupation is related to a competent performance of tasks associated with a job or occupation. Skill level is an attribute of an occupation, not of an individual and can be measured by:

  1. Theory
    The level or amount of formal education and/or training.
  2. Work experience
    The amount of previous experience in a related occupation.
  3. Practical application

    The amount of on-the job training usually required to perform the set of tasks required for that occupation competently. Therefore, it is possible to make a comparison between the skill level of an occupation and the required educational level on the National Qualifications Framework.

    With the onset of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations and the use of the Framework it stands to reason that HR departments will need to align or redesign profiles for all positions or occupations in a company as closely as possible to the description given in the Framework.

    This will be to the benefit of all employees in terms of education and training and will add greatly to the ease of achieving a qualification by means of RPL assessment.

    In addition it will have advantages in terms of competency based recruiting and selection efforts.

    Therefore, occupational qualifications will consist of common or core learning and specialised learning components. These components will replace fundamental, core and elective.

    All of the task or skills components will be core to the qualification and compulsory for a learner.

    In addition, there will be specialisation components to be used by learners as appropriate to the specific occupational requirement.

    A learner will have to achieve foundational mathematical and language representing the minimum proficiency required to be able to engage in occupational learning or as might be required in the context of a specific qualification. These requirements will be on a “fit for purpose” basis.

  4. Des Squire is a managing member at Amsi and Associates. Call: 082 800 9057 or email: [email protected]

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