Casual workers within the formal employment sector who receive payment in any one calendar month for at least 18 days employment should contribute to the national pension scheme. So should casual workers employed in any 6 weeks of a 12-week period.
The same applies to those who work for five days or more in a month, but have a contract that runs for several months, since employment under any contract of service, written or implied, is insurable employment.
Those working less than 18 days a month who do not have a contract running for several months do not contribute to the scheme.
However, employers should ensure the employee is covered by the Worker’s Compensation Insurance Fund, no matter how short the period of employment is. Accidents at work can happen at any time, even after only a few hours of employment, so it is important that every employee is covered.
Worker’s Compensation Insurance Fund premiums are paid by the employer, not by the employee. National pension scheme contributions are paid by both the employee and employer.
Of course, casual workers who only work for short periods and move from one employer to another may find that the number of contributions they have made to the pension fund is not that many. However, they will add up and in time should ensure the employee qualifies for a retirement benefit.
A minimum of 12 months, contributions are required for a contributor to be entitled to a retirement benefit when he or she reaches retirement age. If the contributor has contributed for more than 12 months, but less than 120 months, the benefit will be a once-off retirement grant. If the accumulated contributions amount to 120 months or more then the contributor qualifies for a pension at age 60, if retired or unemployed.
If by that age a contributor has contributed for less than 12 months, then the contributions are refundable with interest.
Once the number of monthly contributions a person has made reaches 12, a funeral grant and survivor’s grant become payable in the event of his or her death. The funeral grant presently amounts to $200. The amount of the survivor’s grant will depend on the contribution period.
So the answer to the correspondent who asked who would benefit from the NSSA contributions made while working for various companies on a contractual basis is that he or she will benefit on reaching the age of eligibility for a retirement benefit. If he or she dies before then, the surviving spouse and children, or other dependant if there is no spouse or children, will benefit, provided at least 12 monthly contributions were made.
The monthly contributions do not have to be consecutive. A person might work for one employer for one month, then be unemployed for two months and then work for someone else for two months. If NSSA contributions are made with each month of employment, then the contributions period would be three months, even though there was a two month break in between the first period of employment and the second.
The contributor can make arrangements to make voluntary contributions during periods of unemployment, though the contribution would have to be double the contributor’s payment while in employment since there would be no employer to share the contribution with.
Contributions are six percent of the employee’s basic income up to a maximum insurable earnings limit of $200 per month, with the six percent contribution shared equally between employee and employer. A person who is unemployed and wants to make voluntary contributions would therefore have to pay the equivalent of six percent instead of the three percent deducted from his or her salary.
When a casual worker or any employee for that matter is first registered for the pension scheme, he or she should find out his or her social security number, so that the same number can be used with each employer.
The normal retirement age at which one is eligible for a NSSA pension is 60, provided the individual is retired. If the casual worker has by that age become a fulltime employee and is still working then he or she can only claim the retirement benefit on ceasing employment or on reaching the age of 65, at which age contributions to the pension fund should cease and the retirement benefit be claimed, even if the person concerned is still working.
There is, however, an early retirement age of 55 for farm workers and those working in other arduous jobs such as quarrying and mining jobs and heavy truck driving. To qualify for retirement benefit at age 55, one must have been working in the arduous job for at least seven of the preceding 10 years and be no longer employed.
Talking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority as a public service. There is also a weekly radio programme, PaMhepo neNssa/Emoyeni le NSSA, discussing social security issues at 6.50 pm every Thursday on Radio Zimbabwe. Readers can e-mail issues they would like dealt with in this column to firstname.lastname@example.org or text them to 0772 307 913. Those with individual queries should contact their local NSSA office or telephone NSSA on (04) 706517-8 or 706523 5.