Printing SA has outlined guidelines to observe for both members and non-members during these times of economic crisis in the face of COVID-19.
For the last two weeks, Printing SA has been in close communication with The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Labour, South African Typographical Union (SATU), South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI), Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) and various other stakeholders to evaluate the impact of national lockdown that will be implemented on 27 March 2020 for 21 days.
These engagements have been in an effort to advocate on behalf of the South African printing and packaging industry and provide its members and their employees with information from the coalface of our sector in regards to the impact of COVID-19 and what thousands of businesses need in order to remain solvent and retain their staff.
Members have raised various concerns around the uncertainty and implementation of the regulations surrounding the industry and we have compiled feedback regarding some of the frequently asked questions that have been received thus far. We can, therefore, advise our members and stakeholders on the following:
1. Is printing and packaging an Essential Service?
During the lockdown, the supply of critical food, medical, hygiene and pharmaceutical products is still necessary for supermarkets and pharmacies to be operational. In order to fulfil the production of these items, the supply of raw material and consumables, like paper, board, inks, cleaning materials, and spare parts for machine equipment will be required to ensure that the printing and packaging of labels, inserts, packaging cartons, boxes and general information to the public can continue.
Thus there is the need for continued operations within printing and packaging, albeit in a scaled-down way, respecting social distancing at all times, and employees taking all personal precautions like wearing masks and sanitising hands regularly.
Companies need to decide whether the entire operation or just partial is required to deliver on the production of these essential products, and the optimum number of personnel required, and whether full time, short time or part-time.
The DTI is engaging with companies from the printing and packaging sectors to indicate if they want to be considered essential or not, and this data is currently being secured from member companies. This data will be used to confirm which companies will qualify to be on the Essential Services list or not.
2. Will employees be provided with a letter confirming that they work for an Essential Service?
The procedure is still unclear and we hope to shed light on this once the essential services regulation has been gazetted. We do, however, foresee that this would possibly be a requirement and a template will be made available in this event for member companies who want to be considered as part of ‘Essential Services’.
3. How does a company compensate employees through the period of the national lockdown?
Employers are being implored by the Government to try, to the best of their ability, to compensate employees during the lockdown period where possible. If businesses cannot afford it, they could apply for assistance through either the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) provisions or secondly the Temporary Employee or Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). https://profmoosa.com/unemployment-benefits-for-covid-19
The Minister of Labour will be making a detailed announcement on how this will be administered. The disbursements will likely occur through the companies and Bargaining Councils with strict audits once this period has ended.
4. How do companies approach their staff from a labour perspective?
Employers are able to place staff on Short Time due to the National Lockdown, using this as the basis for their decision, and then either remunerating them or using the UIF provisions or TERS for funding. The employer and employee would view this as a temporary closure of business in response to the National Lockdown as proclaimed by the President of the Republic.
5. What should companies communicate to staff regarding a shutdown?
Employers would be responsible to advise employees of the pandemic and of the announcement made by the President of the Republic, declaring a National Lockdown. If a particular company does not fall within the ambit of being classified an Essential Service, the company should be closed temporarily.
6. Do companies have to pay staff during a shutdown period?
It is not compulsory, but employers are urged to exercise empathy and pay staff during this unpleasant period. The alternative is to make applications to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) or Temporary Employee or Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) for funding in remunerating employees. Other alternatives such as using the annual leave, or perhaps other leave provisions to ease the burden on employees could be explored.
7. How does a company pay for UIF benefits?
Through the UIF National disaster benefit guide to an amount of R3500 for the shutdown period or a maximum period of 3 months per employee, or through UIF benefits for COVID-19 where 3 types of benefits are available: reduced work time; illness benefit; per dependent benefit.
UIF Forms 2.1, 2.7, 2.8 and UI19 must be filled and submitted to the local labour centre via email or fax as listed in the National Disaster Benefit Guide. Forms can be downloaded from https://profmoosa.com/unemployment-benefits-for-covid-19/
8. Is Printing SA providing a directive from the printing industry to business?
Printing SA will continually update the industry on any latest developments through direct mailers as well as our website and social media platforms as and when the need arises.
9. What is Printing SA doing to promote printing and packaging as an Essential Service?
Printing SA awaits the comprehensive list of Essential Services to be gazetted in order to determine which processes will fall into this category. We have also been in discussions with SACCI in order to lobby for the sector to be recognised under this regulation in the event that the sector is not included under this regulation. The Critical Business Continuity Services draft sets out a list of sectors, services and functions required to continue during a lockdown as part of the Covid-19 responses. This is not intended to be authoritative or exhaustive but provide guidance.
The broad areas that must remain functional are:
-Security and resilience of basic infrastructure.
-Business continuity for critical support services for the health sector.
-Business continuity for public health and safety, including food security.
In all cases, businesses that need to provide critical continuity services must apply the necessary strategies to limit disease spread, and protect staff and others that they will have to interact with.
10. Will Struggling B-BBEE Level 4 (or Lower) SMMES benefit from the small business development payouts for loss of production or closure of operations, or will race and ownership preclude some of these struggling entities to really benefit and survive this crisis?
The Department of Small Business Development has introduced three intervention measures to support SMMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These are the Business Growth and Resilience Facility, SMME Relief Finance Scheme and Sefa-Debt Restructuring Facility.
The Business Growth and Resilience Facility is targeted at SMMEs who locally manufacture or supply hygiene and medical products that are in demand in order to curb and manage the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These are products such as sanitisers, detergents and tissue paper. This facility will offer working capital, stock, bridging finance, order finance and equipment finance. The funding amount will be based on the funding needs of the actual business.
The SMME Relief Finance Facility will provide soft-loan funding for existing businesses in distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief will be for a period of 6 months, from 01 April 2020. In an instance where SMMEs will require assistance for longer than 6 months, the term may be extended dependent on their needs. Separate and tailor-made facilities are being finalised for the Informal Sector, Spaza Shops and the Self-Employed. These will be announced on Friday, 27 March 2020.
Key to the qualifying criteria for the Business Growth and Resilience Facility and the SMME Relief Finance Scheme is that the entities must be 100% South African owned, 70% of their employees must be South African, and the entities must be registered and be compliant with SARS. In the instance that an SMME is not compliant, they will be assisted with the compliance process before their applications can be considered.
The Sefa-Debt Restructuring Facility is geared towards sefa-funded SMMEs that are negatively affected by the pandemic. A payment moratorium/holiday will be given to the qualifying SMMEs for a period of a maximum of 6 months, in efforts to reduce the instalment burden of loan obligations on the affected SMMEs. These SMMEs will be required to illustrate the direct linkage of their business distress to the pandemic.
The SMME South Africa platform (www.smmesa.gov.za) was created in partnership with Telkom SA, and will serve as a gateway for SMMEs to apply for both financial and non-financial support, access information about business opportunities and market access support during the pandemic, and beyond. Visit www.dsbd.gov.za for more information.
We advise members and stakeholders to look out for further communication from Printing SA as we await answers for numerous other questions that have been received.
We also ask that you submit all other questions in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavour to respond timeously and with the most accurate feedback.
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