Part of our task at Social Security is to explain to the public how the system works. To do this, we often times engage persons at their workplaces in open discussion. It is at such meetings that we get the opportunity for one-on-one and one-to-many conversations. Here are some of the issues that often arise — an employer is under no legal obligation to pay an employee if and when that employee goes on sick leave. If that employer does so, he/she does so for the convenience of the employee, and has a right to re-imbursement from the employee when s/he collects the Social Security payment. The idea is that a sick and absent person has no entitlement to a wage that is greater than 100%, greater than that which a worker who is on the job obtains. Besides, By virtue of having matched the employee portion of Social Security contributions, that employer has already paid a premium to cater for payments to you during periods of sickness, and shouldn’t have to pay twice. In fact, it is that co-payment that amounts to the 65% wage replacement; without which the employee would only qualify for 32.5% of his wage. Besides, what if the demands of the workplace require the employment of a substitute? How will the employer be able to pay both of you? For those persons with more than one job, there is no point in claiming sickness benefit on the same sickness on each employer. But you will be paid on the combined salary of all the jobs. However, you cannot be sick for the one and well for the other. Furthermore, do not make an injury claim on one employer and a sickness claim on the other. That, too, is improper if a single parent insured person dies, whose parents are already deceased and whose children are grown, what happens to ‘my money’? Well if Social Security were run that way – on a personal account system, then we would have been bankrupt a long time ago! Chile tried it and quickly changed back to a one-for-all and all-for-one system like we have in St Kitts-Nevis. It bears repeating though that death is not exactly the end of our relationship. Death triggers the funeral grant which, in some circumstances can be as high as EC$4000.00. It also triggers three other possible payments – a ‘sideways’ payment for the spouse (married or live-in of at least 5 years), an ‘upward’ payment to dependent parent, especially for parents who are older than 62 years and have no pension of their own; and a downward payment to children aged 16 or younger, or up to age 18 if they are still attending school in the Federation. If that dependent child is disabled, the survivor pension would be payable for as long as the disability lasts. We always remind our audience that the deceased have no further need for money! The fact that there are about 500 million senior citizens in the world means that death before earning a pension is not a lottery to be won By the lucky people of the Federation, but rather a blessing to be enjoyed By all persons. True, some of us will die before gaining pension age, but the evidence suggests that most of us will not win the lotto and die early, but will indeed survive to pensionable age. Therefore, I urge all of us to make our pension sure By paying our premiums now. Early pension is possible under our system, but under condition of invalidity or disability. I am yet to meet the person who volunteers to become so disabled or so ‘invalidated’ just to obtain an early pension. But it has happened that some persons have had to depend on this facility, and they all are thankful that their Social Security has been there for them in their time of need. The interesting thing here is that in every case, these persons were unable to complete their working years (16-62), but have been paid nonetheless. That is where some of the funds from contributors who die go to – to helping our brothers and sisters. There, but for the grace of God…. It bears repeating that all but three of our benefits (maternity grant, funeral grant and assistance pension) are linked to your reported wages. The more honest you are in reporting, the more relevant will be your benefit. So many persons base their lifestyle on the combined salaries from two or more jobs, but only report on one. When these persons claim a benefit, and it is based on the one salary, they often times become abusive to us, not realizing that they are self abusers. Remember too that if you are unable to work at one of your jobs, then you should not be at the other one(s). That is fraud; and Social Security has legal authority to prosecute fraudsters. Despite the fact that benefits are wage linked however, our minimum benefit is always adjusted upwards to take into account inflation. Thus, our minimum earned pension is at EC$400.00, and child survivor pension is EC$96.00. Were it not for these adjustments, they would have been a lot lower. There are those who have never had cause to make a claim on Social Security. They should give thanks to the Higher Authority. Then there are those who state that they have never benefitted from the Institution. We disagree. Not after 34 years of operation; not after all those donations; not after all those loans for national development, not after supporting the Development Bank, Foundation for National Development, the Credit Unions, FinCo and all the Banks the way that we have done. Our constant appeal bears repeating also. Comply or be denied. Last year, persons who had complied were rewarded with payments of over $40 million. Are you securing yours?
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