SSS Unemployment Benefit Program: Helping Filipino workers during the pandemic

Losing a job unexpectedly can be one of life’s greatest challenges. It takes you out of your comfort zone as you will no longer have a steady income to provide for your family’s basic needs, not to mention the monthly bills that you still have to pay for like electricity, water, telephone, Internet, etc.

It can be unnerving not knowing where to get funds for your expenses, especially at this time that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and employment opportunities are scarce due to uncertainty of the resumption of businesses. And even if you have your life savings, you can’t avoid worrying and thinking about the future. Until when can your savings tide you over?  

In European countries like Germany, pension funds provide unemployment benefits to their workers. In the Philippines, SSS is the only pension fund institution that offers this Unemployment Benefit (UB) Program to workers who were involuntarily separated from employment.  

As one of the significant provisions of Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, which was implemented on March 5,  2019, UB is a cash allowance granted to covered employees including househelpers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were involuntarily separated from employment due to economic downturn, natural or human-induced calamities/disasters, installation of labor-saving devices, redundancy, retrenchment or downsizing, closure or cessation of operation, and disease/illness of the employee whose continued employment is prohibited by law or is prejudicial to him/her or his/her co-employees’ health.  

To qualify, a member must:  

n  not be more than 60 years at the time of involuntary separation, except for underground/surface mineworkers and racehorse jockeys whose age should not be more than 50 and 55 years old, respectively, and  

n  must have paid at least 36 monthly contributions, 12 months of which should have been paid within the 18-month period before the involuntary separation.  

For example, a member was involuntarily separated on July 7, 2021, therefore, he must have paid at least 36 monthly contributions, 12 months of which were paid in January 2020 to June 2021 (or 18-month period prior to July 2021) in order to qualify for the benefit.  

Qualified members will receive a monthly cash benefit equivalent to 50 percent of member’s average monthly salary credit for a maximum of two months. As an example, if the said member’s AMSC is at P16,000, he will get a two-month cash benefit amounting to P16,000 (or P8,000 for each month).  

To apply, simply :  

n  login to your My.SSS account and enroll your preferred disbursement account through the Disbursement Account Enrollment Module (DAEM) under the E-Services tab.  

n  once approved, submit your application by clicking “Apply for the Unemployment Benefit Claim” also found under the E-Services tab.  

n  fill in the requested information such as the DAEM-enrolled account, employment category, date and reason of involuntary separation and employer’s name where you have been separated.  

n  review the provided information/details and make sure the same are correct before clicking “Submit”.  

SSS will send a notification e-mail to which the applicant must respond by attaching scanned copies of the Certification of Involuntary Separation issued by the Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office whichever is applicable, and the Notice of Termination from the Employer or Affidavit of Termination of Employment (in the absence of the Notice of Termination). Another e-mail will be sent confirming the successful application. Proceeds will go directly to the account enrolled through the DAEM.  

A qualified member who has been involuntarily separated may apply for the benefit once in three years from the date of his or her separation. This program has a prescriptive filing period of one year from date of involuntary separation from employment.  

However, UB claims shall still be accepted if the one-year deadline for filing falls on March 5, 2020 until the last day of the community quarantine. Furthermore, claimants are given an additional 60 days from the end of the CQ to file for their UB claims.   

In 2020, SSS has released more than P1.7 billion in unemployment benefits to 135,814 members—this is an 860.9-percent increase from the disbursement of P177.86 million in 2019. The number of beneficiaries increased by 811.8 percent last year, compared to 14,895 members in 2019. Part of the reason of this increase is the lockdown that started last year due to the pandemic when businesses were forced to close, causing massive unemployment. While it is unfortunate that workers got laid off, it gives us comfort that in a way, we were able to alleviate their financial burden. As replacement income, it helped our workers by providing them additional financial support while they are looking for a new job.

And now that only localized areas are being held in stricter quarantine restrictions, we hope they can slowly pick up their livelihood and regain their financial independence soon. Generally, this is why SSS is here—to provide social security protection in times of contingencies.  

Have a nice week everyone!  

Aurora C. Ignacio is SSS president and chief executive officer.

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