Seafarers, who are no longer eligible for work onboard due to various reasons, may now avail themselves of unemployment insurance of up to P10,000 per month.
Seaway reported earlier the strong opposition of leaders of the manning groups to Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte last February.
They argued that the new law would make Filipino seafarers more expensive; thus unattractive to principals, because of the significant increase in their principals’ contributions to the Social Security System (SSS).
The law raises members’ contribution to SSS from 10% to 15% of their salary, by increasing 1% yearly until it reaches 15% in the next 5 years. Their employers’ share will also have a corresponding increase in their contributions.
As a result of the significant increase of the members’ and employers’ contributions, the law has prolonged the life span of the state-run pension fund and allowed it to provide additional benefits to its millions of members.
Among the new SSS benefits under R.A. 11199, SSS would provide overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) including seafarers, who can no longer be employed, with Unemployment Insurance or Involuntary Separation Benefit.
Their unemployment insurance depends on their contributions. They can get as much as P10,000 each per month if their contribution is at the highest salary bracket or P20,000, according to Ms. Beth Suralbo of the Media Affairs Office of SSS.
That is if they are fully compliant with all the requirements. She immediately clarified, however, that seafarers who are eligible to receive involuntary separation benefit would enjoy the new benefit for only two months.
“That’s only for two months,” Ms. Suralbo explained in an interview.
Moreover, she stressed that the law is not retroactive. Those who became unemployed before the passage of the law are not qualified to get unemployment insurance.
Further, the SSS has issued Circular No. 2019-2011 last July 8 to serve as guidance for the implementation of the new benefit.
Under the circular, those eligible for the new benefit are “those not over 60 years old and has paid at least 36 monthly contributions, 12 months of which should be in the 18-month period preceding the month of involuntary separation.”
Also included eligible are those who were rendered unemployed due to “economic downturn, natural or human-induced calamities or disasters and any analogous cases as may be determined by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and SSS.”
The circular also mentions the specific situations where seafarers are not qualified to get the benefit.
These are if they committed “serious misconduct; willful disobedience to lawful orders; gross and habitual neglect of duties; fraud or willful breach of trust/loss of confidence; commission of crime or offense and analogous cases like abandonment, gross inefficiency, disloyalty/conflict of interest/dishonesty.”
“Claims for unemployment insurance shall be filed within 1 year from the date of involuntary separation,” says the circular.
Among the documents required to be presented are at least 1 original and photocopies of government valid IDs and certification from DOLE, establishing the nature and date of involuntary separation with the attachment of Notice of Termination from Employer.
Seafarer-applicants of the benefits will be required to present their Unified Multi-purpose ID (UMID)-ATM card or Union Bank of the Philippines (UBP) Quick Bank Account where the unemployment insurance would be deposited.
All applications should be filed at the DOLE Field or Provincial Office nearest to the office of the employer.
To facilitate the implementation of the new benefit, DOLE issued Department Circular No. 01s. 2019 on July 29, 2019, assuring seafarers applying for certification for unemployment insurance of “one-day processing upon receipt and verification of the application with complete documentary requirements.”
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