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President of the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU), Shirley Pryce, is encouraging domestic workers to contribute to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).

Speaking on the JIS Television programme ‘Get the Facts’ recently, Ms. Pryce noted that NIS take-up by domestic employees remains low.

“We are trying to go about educating [these] categories of workers to make sure that they are contributing to the NIS,” she said.

The National Insurance Act describes domestic workers as persons who are employed to conduct work in and around the household for the benefit of persons who own or reside in the home.

They include household helpers, chauffeurs, gardeners, nannies, cooks, and caregivers.

Recent statistics indicate that there are more than 45,000 domestic workers in Jamaica, and NIS coverage among that category of employees is only three per cent, which is extremely low.

Ms. Pryce noted that one of the reasons contributing to the low sign-up rate is the working hours of domestic workers.

“I think it’s because of access, because domestic workers work long hours and some work from Monday to Saturday. They pay [contribution to NIS] through a stamp card, and they have to get the stamp at the post office. Post offices do not open on Saturdays and Sundays, [and] when domestic workers leave work in the evenings, they are already closed,” she pointed out.

Ms. Pryce is recommending that a “special window” be created at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security where domestic workers can get assistance.

“So even though they are at work, they can rush out and pay their NIS and go back to work. We are also asking the employers to make sure that their domestic workers’ NIS is being paid. Give them the time to go out and pay it. This is the only way that a domestic worker can get their pension… by contributing to their NIS,” she said.

Benefits of NIS contribution include retirement pension and health insurance (NI Gold) after retirement; invalidity pension, which is payable ahead of the retirement age of 65 years; as well as a funeral grant. There is also the survivor’s benefit for the surviving spouse and children under 18 years old.

One benefit that is unique to the domestic worker is the maternity allowance, where the beneficiary is paid the national minimum weekly wage for eight weeks.

Meanwhile, Ms. Pryce said that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization and the JHWU, will be going across the island to increase awareness and to register workers.

She said that the NIS department will be reaching out “not just to domestic workers but to low-income workers, to [encourage them] to register with the NIS, “because if you don’t do that, you will be left behind. It is on you”.

To learn more about registering and contributing to the NIS, domestic workers can visit the nearest Ministry of Labour and Social Security location, or the NIS office on 18 Ripon Road, Kingston.

They can also contact the JHWU at 4 Ellesmere Road in Half-Way Tree or call 876-906-2849.

“We have forms there and we will help you to fill the forms out so you can start the process,” Ms. Pryce said.

 

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