JIS News

Most Jamaicans, on retirement, can take comfort in the fact that they will still receive a stable and dependable income in the form of a government pension, providing that they have made their contributions under the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
But a retirement pension represents only one aspect of the social security benefits that working Jamaicans are eligible for under the NIS.
Director of National Insurance in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Denzil Thorpe, tells JIS News that there is a range of benefits extended to qualified pensioners, especially those who might encounter unforeseen circumstances during their working lives.
As Mr. Thorpe explains, special benefits are provided for those, who make valid pension contributions, but may become unemployed due to permanent illness or serious injury leading to a disability. In addition, payments are made to spouses of an insured pensioner, on the event of the pensioner’s death.
“We are seeking to build a society in which we have equity; a society in which persons who are vulnerable are provided for,” the Director says. One of these special schemes is the Invalidity Benefit for persons unable to work because of permanent illness. To be eligible for this assistance, “persons must meet the qualifying contributory conditions at the time they are unable to work” and they must have not been able to work for a period of 26 weeks.
Another scheme is the Employment Injury and Disablement Benefit, which applies to persons with injuries that lead to permanent disablement. “The person is able to get what is known as a disablement benefit and that is based on the level of disability as assessed by our medical advisors,” he notes.
In cases where the employment injury leads to death, the surviving spouse or the mother of the deceased is eligible for the benefit, which currently stands at an estimated $150,000.
There is also the Widow and Widower’s benefit, which is paid to the spouse of an insured pensioner in the event of the pensioner’s death.
“Again,” Mr. Thorpe stresses, “they would have to meet the qualified contributory conditions, but also the marital arrangements would have to be at least three years of marriage and at least five years if it is a common law relationship.”
There are also the Special Child Benefit, which in its current state, “provides that if the child has lost his or her mother, the guardian can claim a special child’s benefit on the grounds that the mother has died and the whereabouts of the father are unknown,” Mr. Thorpe states.
He informs JIS News however, that the Ministry was looking to amend the Act relating to the Special Child Benefit, to include situations where the father has died and the mother’s whereabouts are unknown.For children who have lost both parents, there is the Orphan’s Benefit but the parents during their lifetime, must have met the qualifying contributory contributions before any benefits can be claimed.
Other special benefits are the Special Anniversary Pension and the Sugar Worker’s Benefit.
Mr. Thorpe explains that the former is the sole benefit given by the Ministry that requires no contributory factors, and was introduced in 1991 on the 25th anniversary of the pension scheme, as a special incentive to persons born before January 1906. “The thinking behind it is that those persons would already have been 60 years of age when the scheme came into being so that was the only qualification,” the Insurance Director tells JIS News, while also acknowledging that there are in fact, near centenarians, who collected the anniversary pension. In relation to the Sugar Worker’s Benefit, he says “that is not one which persons apply for now, this was present at the time that the NIS came into being. Persons who were covered under that plan were able to get benefits under the NIS Sugar Workers’ Plan.”

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