Filipinos working in the private sector are covered by the Social Security System (SSS), a state-run insurance program that offers health and retirement benefits can help tide them through tough times. But did you know that you can still enjoy benefits from SSS even if you are unemployed?
Also Read: How to Claim the SSS Unemployment Benefits
Yep! That’s right—you can apply as a voluntary member and take advantage of everything that SSS offers its members. If you need to learn more, here is a complete guide to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding SSS voluntary membership:
- What is social security?
- What is the difference between self-employed and voluntary members?
- What are the duties and responsibilities of voluntary members?
- How to update your membership status from employed to voluntary
- What are the benefits of being a voluntary SSS member?
- How to Pay SSS Contributions as a Voluntary Member
- What is the effect of non-reporting and non-remittance of contributions?
- Final Thoughts
Social security is a state-run insurance program that offers protection to its members. It is particularly important in times of economic hardships caused by contingencies. Unexpected circumstances such as sickness, maternity, unemployment, disability, old age, and death mars periods when SSS benefits come in handy.
SSS offers two types of coverage under the SS Program: For those who are working and earning on their own, there’s the compulsory membership. There’s also the Voluntary membership for separated members, non-working spouses of SSS members, or OFWs. Either type offers convenient, reliable, and meaningful social protection services now and in the future.
What is the difference between self-employed and voluntary members?
Self-employed and voluntary members are easily confused about these two being one and the same, though they are quite different.
A person can be considered Self-employed and apply as such type of SSS member if he is below 60 years old at the time of SSS registration and earns not less than Php 2,000 in a month from either a business or as compensation for services rendered. On the other hand, unemployed individuals cannot just start paying contributions as a Voluntary Member. If they do, such contributions shall be deemed invalid and duly returned/refunded. Voluntary Membership is exclusive for previously employed, self-employed, or OFW members.
Who are considered as self-employed members?
The following are Self-Employed but not limited to:
- Partners, board directors, and single proprietors of businesses
- Actors, directors, scriptwriters, news reporters, etc.
- Professional athletes, coaches, trainers, jockeys,
- individual farmers and fisher folks
- Worker in the informal sector like cigarette vendors, hospitality girls, etc.
- Contractual and job order personnel
- Other SE determined by the Social Security Commission (SSC)
Who are considered as voluntary members?
The following can register as Voluntary SSS members:
- Overseas Filipino worker (OFWs): Any Filipino under 60 years of age recruited in the Philippines by a foreign-based employer for employment abroad. Anybody with a source of income in a foreign country and resides permanently in a foreign country also qualifies under this category.
- Non-working spouse (NWS) of an SSS member: Any person under 60 years old who is legally married to a currently-employed and actively-paying SSS member can be considered as an NWS if he/she devotes full time in the management of household and family affairs and has never been an SSS member.
- Separated member: Any SSS member who is stopped being employed or being self-employed, an OFW, or a non-working spouse, but still intends to continue paying SSS contributions on his/her own account.
What are the duties and responsibilities of voluntary members?
Naturally, SSS membership is not all about the benefits alone. Even as Voluntary members, there are duties and responsibilities that need to be observed.
For voluntary members, it is a must to:
- Pay their monthly contributions using Contributions Payment Return (SS Form RS-5) monthly or quarterly in accordance with the prescribed schedule based on documents that proved their earnings. In case the change to Voluntary status will result in a lower MSC, or where the change will result in more than two salary brackets higher or lower than the present MSC, a Declaration of Earnings must be submitted. If the member is 55 years or older and the present MSC is more than P10,000.00, the allowed increase is only one salary bracket regardless of whether the supporting documents are submitted or not.
For Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), it increased the minimum MSC from P3,000.00 to P5,000.00, beginning 01 January 2004, so they must:
- Be conscious of changes and improvements in SSS policies and benefit structure.
- Update or correct their personal records with the SSS by submitting a duly filled-up Member’s Data Amendment (SS Form E-4) with supporting documents.
How to update your membership status from employed to voluntary
To update your membership status to voluntary, there are different ways to do so.
- If you have an online account, just login to the My.SSS portal, choose “Voluntary’’ or “OFW” as your membership type, and generate a Payment Reference Number (PRN). After the contribution is paid, your membership status will automatically change to voluntary or OFW.
- If you wish to personally go to the nearest SSS branch office, then you’ll want to pay your contributions using the RS-5 Form (Contributions Payment Return). Make sure to check the box that says “Voluntary” under “Type of Payor” so the membership status will be updated when the payment is posted.
- If you are a nonworking spouse and you wish to pay for your SSS contributions, then make sure you put a check mark next to “Non-Working Spouse” on the E-4 form. Also, provide your spouse’s CRN or SSS number and monthly income, and have him/her sign over his/her agreement to your SSS membership.
What are the benefits of being a voluntary SSS member?
Naturally, being a Voluntary member under the SSS program comes with numerous benefits. We rounded up a short list of the things you can enjoy when you start paying for your SSS contribution as a Voluntary member:
- Sickness Benefit
If you suddenly got sick or injured, and are confined either at home or in a hospital for at least four days, then you are entitled to get a daily cash allowance for the number of days you’re unable to work. This applies if you have at least three months’ worth of contributions within the last 12 months.
- Maternity Benefit
Female SSS members who just gave birth or had a miscarriage can avail of maternity benefits in the form of daily cash allowances, if they have at least three months’ worth of SSS contributions within the last 12 months.
- Disability Benefit
SSS members who became either partially or totally disabled may apply for the disability benefit. If you made at least 36 contributions, it can be given either as a monthly pension. If not, you will be granted a lump sum amount as a disability benefit.
- Retirement Benefit
Just like the disability benefit, the retirement benefit can be given either as a monthly pension or a lump sum amount to SSS members who can no longer work because of old age. As a prerequisite, the member has to have paid at least 120 contributions and retired at 60 years old. It is, however, automatically given to those who reach mandatory retirement at 65 years old, regardless of employment status.
- Death Benefit
Primary beneficiaries of an SSS member who died can get a monthly death pension if there was at least 36 monthly contributions. If there’s less than 36 contributions, then the beneficiaries get a lump sum. If there are no primary beneficiaries, the secondary beneficiaries or dependent parents receive the benefit.
- Funeral Benefit
The burial expenses of a deceased SSS member can be covered by the funeral benefits from the SSS, provided that there is at least one monthly contribution as a voluntary, self-employed, or OFW member.
- Salary Loan
Yep, you read that right! Even Voluntary members can avail of the SSS salary loan. As a cash loan granted to help any SSS member with their short-term credit needs, the loan has an interest rate of 10% per annum, and the length of loan payment depends on the number of contributions made.
To qualify for a salary loan, at least six monthly contributions in the last 12 months must be made before filing your loan application. There shouldn’t be any existing loans with the SSS.
Being a voluntary SSS member definitely comes with lots of perks, but it is necessary to make sure the monthly contributions are paid to take advantage of them.
How to Pay SSS Contributions as a Voluntary Member
To pay for SSS contributions, Voluntary members can go to any payment centers nationwide or online via your mobile phone or apps like GCash or Coins.ph.
What is the effect of non-reporting and non-remittance of contributions?
For voluntary member who do not have earnings in a given month, payment of SSS contributions for that month is no longer required. Voluntary members are allowed to pay their monthly contributions in advance, but never retroactively. That said, it is impossible for a voluntary member to pay for months with missed contributions.
In cases of covered Non-Working Spouse, becoming employed, self-employed or an OFW would mean a re-classification of the membership status.
Being a voluntary member may seem like a hassle for some, but in reality, this is an insurance program that can prove helpful when you least expect it. For OFWs whose future and family are plagued by the uncertainties of distance and conflict, an insurance that offers benefits and doesn’t hurt the wallet, can be quite useful.