Dear Client,

As your trusted advisor, we would like to reassure you of our commitment and ability to continue supporting you, your organisation, employees and their dependants during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.

Due to the fear of contracting COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, and rumours on how this shut down may negatively impact income in the near future, South Africans have started to react irrationally by stockpiling and clearing grocery store shelves, disinvesting or switching their investment portfolios or cancelling their personal insurance and medical scheme. As your independent advisor, this communication highlights some key factors to consider when making big financial decisions.

The goal is to remain calm, safe and reduce any anxiety you or your staff may feel.

What if I’ve been exposed to or infected with COVID-19 as per the Department of Health (DoH)?

If you feel you have been exposed to COVID-19, or are showing slight symptoms such as a cough, fever, tiredness or severe cases of difficulty breathing, please avoid contact with other people in your community and self-isolate.

If you feel you are ill and need non-urgent medical care, call your doctor to ask how to be tested. They will need to follow certain steps to get you the specific care you need.

If you are feeling very ill and need care immediately, call your emergency services or contact the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for assistance.

When seeking care, follow these steps:

  • Call your healthcare facility and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19
  • Put on a face mask before you enter the healthcare facility- especially if you have a cough
  • Your healthcare professional is not required to inform the NICD when they do a test. Instead, the testing lab will send the results through to the NICD

ASI has a nationwide provider network which can assist you and your employees with queries, support and medical testing – as part of our commitment to you. Please get in touch with us if you have any queries or need support in this matter.

Local Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Benefits

The latest speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted the real impact of this pandemic in our lives and the economy at large. Developments such as the 21 days of lockdown as a result of the increase in the number of infections, has caused a sharp fall in stock markets (resulting in record-breaking negative returns – which directly affect retirement funds) and has only added to anxiety in this already uncertain period. Please take a moment to consider the following points and do not panic, this too shall pass.

Medical Schemes Cover – Did you know?

The treatment of COVID-19 is NOT excluded from any of the benefit plan options of any registered medical scheme in South Africa. Several communications, from the Council for Medical Schemes, sent directly to employers and members from the medical schemes have confirmed this. The general rule for most medical schemes is that the cost of testing will be covered from your day-to-day benefit if the test results are negative. If they are positive, the cost will be paid from the risk benefit. The same rule applies to the treatment of any COVID-19 infections (i.e. paid from risk benefit).

When employees experience financial strain, medical scheme insurance is usually one of the first expenses to be cancelled to alleviate financial pressure. Instead of cancelling medical scheme membership, members should rather downgrade their level of cover to the most affordable benefit option possible to ensure that the main member and their dependants have the necessary cover in a time where cover is critical. Importantly, it is expected that public facilities may soon start experiencing capacity challenges, which necessitates the need for private cover.

Please contact your ASI advisor for specific information on your medical scheme and request that members contact us for affordable benefit plan options.

Group Risk Insurance – Is COVID-19 excluded from cover by virtue of it being declared a disaster / pandemic?

We have consulted with our group risk insurance service providers and have received assurance from all these providers that COVID-19 related claims are not excluded from cover in qualifying cases e.g. in the unfortunate event of death – full benefits will be paid out like any other cause of death. The same would apply to all other claims caused by COVID-19.

Insurers are prepared for the eventuality and they have reinsurance cover which will be accessed should they experience extremely high claims. It is for this reason that we emphasise the importance of making sure that you are insured with a large and financially sound insurance provider with enough reserves and sufficient reinsurance cover.

Retirement Funds Investment Performance

While we do know that COVID-19 has and will have a negative cyclical effect on global growth, the magnitude of the growth slowdown will be determined by the magnitude and duration of the virus. We also know that there will be negative supply and demand effects on the global economy, which we have observed on recent investment returns, due to broken global supply chains, worker absenteeism, factory closures and logistic disruptions.

It is important to note that with this, like previous events which created a bear market (SARS, September 11, etc), the effects are temporary and we anticipate this market contraction to persist for the next six (6) to twelve (12) months – thereafter we should experience recoveries in the investment market.

Due to the fact that no one knows exactly when we will recover from this induced bear market, it is almost impossible to time the market. Employees who disinvested or switched their investment strategy to conservative investment portfolios may not only lock in their losses, but they may also miss out on the sharp returns which we expect in the recovery period.

ASI therefore discourages the switching of investment portfolios or disinvestment during this period. Should you still feel uncertain, please contact an ASI consultant or your personal financial advisor on this matter. Be vigilant of scammers who will promise quick / overnight returns, remember it if it too good to be true, it probably is!

Remember, there are no “quick wins” when it comes to investing for retirement and the adage applies – It is not timing the market, but time IN the market.

Employee Wellbeing – What is the emotional impact on your staff?

Mental well-being has already become part of our day to day lives. It is largely influenced, and triggered, by personal, financial and relationship setbacks faced by all employees. Our mental well-being will further be tested by COVID-19 and the ripple effect it has in months to come. It is important to consider what mental health issues may be prompted by COVID-19.

Each responsible employer currently has the necessary short-term focus, but it is critical to retain a long-term perspective and to plan for what comes next. COVID-19 will pass eventually, and we will need our employees as citizens of South Africa returning to the workplace fully productive with the right mindset to help support the recovery of the economy going forward.

It will require virtual human connection, resilience and support from robust Employee Wellness Programmes (‘EWP’) to help employers and employees navigate through the mental-health issues aggravated by COVID-19. There may also be a need for EWP’s to support the families of employees, as this unprecedented lockdown would place a strain on these relationships. Afterall, it would be an employee’s most important support structure during this time.

ASI Wellness Affiliate Network – There to support you remotely

Our nationwide wellness network is geared up to support you and all your employees safely, remotely and effectively during this time. You and your employees can have access to qualified consultants 24/7, 365 days a year on our tollfree number. For any emergencies we have a dedicated response team to assist. Moreover, we offer individual trauma briefings and group trauma sessions to ensure all staff as well as employee wellness and state of mind is taken care of.

We have a wide range of benefits that can be tailored to suit your employees and their dependants, with access to our wellness support services.

Please reach out to Naseema, our wellness specialist on email: naseema.ephraim@assegai.co.za | Cell: +27 72 733 4150 if you would like more information.

Personal Insurance

Like medical aid, personal insurance such as car, household and life insurance are usually compromised in times of financial constrain. We once again discourage the cancellation of personal cover and encourage you to communicate to all your employees to rather get a competitive quote by contacting an ASI short-term insurance advisor on +27 (0) 10 443 0250 before making any drastic changes.

It will take a huge collective effort to help government and society cope with this situation, therefore we would like to inform you of the measures that ASI is putting in place to keep you confidently connected and supported during this unprecedented time.

ASI’s COVID-19 Business Continuity – What does this mean for you as our clients?

  • Our day-to-day operations and client service practice will continue as usual: ASI ensures 100% business continuity during this time and has put the necessary protocols and systems in place to continue to support you
  • Get in Touch: Please use our normal communication channels as your first point of contact and escalate any unattended matters to our managers, as and when necessary

Our dedicated client care division and support teams are available from 8 am to 7 pm during the week and can be reached on queries@assegai.co.za | +27 11 029 6123.

We encourage you to contact your ASI advisor, or any one of the management team directly on their mobile phones, if needed.

  • Meetings: We will be implementing Web Meetings via Video Conference tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, Hangouts, etc) until further notice. We will also ensure that we reach out to you more frequently during this time to assist where we can
  • ASI events and gatherings: These have been cancelled with immediate effect and will be rescheduled when deemed safe to do so

As a responsible South African citizen remember to:

  • Comply with the lockdown rules. Stay at home and work from home, avoid social contact (resist the temptation to visit family and friends). Remember the responsibility of curbing the spread of the virus lies with us all
  • Remember to wash/sanitise your hands regularly. Do not panic buy, grocery stores are classified as essential services so they will be open during the lockdown period and so will their suppliers
  • We encourage that you take immune boosters, though these do not serve as a vaccine, they will boost your system to fight the virus and minimise the severity of illness

Need more information?

The South African government has set-up a data free website where you can get the latest information, updates and stats. Log onto: https://coronavirus.datafree.co/

ASI asks that you please bear with us as we navigate through this new norm while we ensure our operational and response protocols are in place with immediate effect. We will continue to do all we can to support you and our nation during this time and trust that we will take collective responsibility to prevent the spread of this virus.

We would like to thank our essential services such as health, fire, police, security, army, border security, agriculture, water, sanitation, electrical, financial and retail, as well as ALL South Africans who are working tirelessly to keep the country functional and safe in this time of tribulation. On behalf of all of us, THANK YOU to all the hard-working men and women keeping this country going.

Stay Safe,

Team ASI