with Raziah Ahmed
used to be that the noun welfare, used to conjure
up a sense of looking after ones self, ones health
and well-being. Much like the word mouse which
today conjures up a picture relating to the computer, the
word welfare is more often perceived as its idiomatic
expression on welfare and conjures up scenes of
deprivation, safety net, and poverty.
When we pay National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions,
which are compulsory for the working population in Trinidad
and Tobago, we are, in fact, paying welfare contributions
for the work force. This is essentially insurance! Let us
see for what benefits we actually purchase with our contributions.
The primary beneficiaries are workers, and dependants, who
during the course of employment, and having made the minimum
number of contributions, suffer loss of earnings due to invalidity,
maternity, sickness, disability, injury on the job, and those
who attain retirement age.
A funeral grant of $4,000 is also paid to people who die while
in insurable employment, or while receiving employment injury
benefit, or who would have been entitled to receive employment
injury benefit. Claimants for this grant must submit evidence,
within six months of the insureds death.
The invalidity benefit is paid to those under age 60, who
were actively at work, prior to being certified as an invalid.
An invalid is defined by the Act as a person who is
likely to remain incapable of working for a period of not
less than 12 months as a result of a specific disease or bodily
or mental disablement.
The maternity benefit takes two forms: an allowance and a
grant. Women who will lose earnings due to the pregnancy can
claim both. The benefit is paid to insured women between the
ages of 16 and 65 years, who paid contributions for 10 of
the 13 weeks prior to maternity leave. A grant is paid whether
she suffers a loss of earnings or not.
According to the Act, During the period of maternity
leave, an employee is entitled to receive pay from her employer
to an amount equivalent to one months leave with full
pay and two months leave with half pay. NIS will pay
The sickness benefit is paid to people who cannot work or
are suspected of having a contagious disease. Such people
will have been on sick leave, and will have suffered loss
of earnings as a result. It is not paid to people injured
on the job.
The employment injury benefit is divided into four categories:
injury benefit, disablement, medical expenses and death benefit.
The injury must have arisen in the course of employment by
accident, or through an industrial disease linked to the job
and must have rendered the person incapable of work.
The disablement benefit compensates the employee for loss
of physical or mental faculties, including disfigurement.
There are two classes of benefits: a pension payable for the
duration of the disability, and a one-time grant.
Medical expenses are paid to the insured who incurs costs
for doctors fees, drugs, surgery, hospitalisation, physiotherapy,
appliances, nursing care, and travelling for treatment, up
to a maximum of $15,000.
The death benefit is a periodic payment or one time payment
made to the following categories of survivors: widow, disabled
widower, children, orphans, and dependant parent.
Those who selected the word scheme in the acronym
NIS, when they really meant to devise a plan to help those
who want to work, but are unable to do so, selected an idiom
for trick, or swindle. But there is no swindling
now, come January 1, 2005, we shall pay contributions at a
To be continued next week
n Raziah Ahmed is a registered financial consultant.