Making contributions under the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) provides retired Jamaicans with the advantage of continuing to receiving an income in the form of pensions.
Pearnel Charles, minister of labour and social security, backs NIS contributions as an important part of retirement planning.
"The National Insurance Scheme is a compulsory, contributory-funded social security scheme, covering all employed persons in Jamaica. It offers some financial protection for the worker and his/her family against loss of income," the minister said.
Under the National Insurance Act, every person aged 18 years and older is required to be registered under the scheme. He or she will acquire an NIS number.
Employees aged 18-65 (women) and 18-70 (men), whether full- or part-time, must contribute at a rate of two-and-a-half per cent of gross salary.
The employer is mandated to pay a matching two-and-a-half per cent up to a maximum salary of $500,000 per annum.
But, after devoting yourself to such payments, what is the procedure to reap the retirement benefits?
Upon reaching the retirement age of 60 for women and 65 for men, a claim must be made by the retiree in order to access NIS benefits.
If the female contributor continues to work beyond age 60, she becomes eligible for the benefit at age 65 or upon retirement. Similarly, if the male contributor continues to work beyond age 65, he becomes eligible for the benefit at age 70 or upon retirement.
Claims should be made within three years after eligibility, or the claimant may lose a portion of the benefit. This is a recent amendment to the National Insurance Act, which previously allowed for the payment of only one year of arrears. (The minister noted that as a result of the amendment, approximately 8,000 pensioners have received over $350 million in arrears payments so far).
Claims must be made on the prescribed national insurance claim form and submitted along with proof of age to the NIS office in the parish in which the claimant resides.
To qualify for a pension, a contributor must have made an average of at least 10 weekly contributions per year during the period in which they were liable to contribute, i.e. between age 18 and retirement. A contributor who has a weekly contribution average below 10, but has made at least 52 weekly contributions, is eligible for a grant. A grant is a one-off payment made by cheque.
Pension payments are made at the post office of the claimant's choice through pension order books. These vouchers may be encashed at the designated post office or at any branch of the National Commercial Bank.
All NIS forms (registration forms, claim forms, etc.) are available free of cost at NIS parish offices islandwide. Forms and other information are also available on the ministry's website at www.mlss.gov.jm.
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