21 Years Later: The Impact of the NIB on the TCI
Then and Now
In order to fully appreciate and understand how the NIB has positively impacted the TCI, it is imperative that one takes a candid retrospective look at what life was like pre- NIB. Prior to its introduction, persons working and residing in the TCI private sector encountered numerous social and financial hardships in the areas of:
Prior to April 1992, expectant mothers grappled with several issues with regard to the planning of their pregnancies because the laws granted them Maternity Allowance of 12 weeks at half-pay only after 2 years of service with any employer. Despite the fact that this was law, a large number of employers chose not to adhere to the law and actually found reasons to terminate their services after being informed of the pregnancy simply because they did not want to pay the employee half-pay as well as engage a temporary replacement for the expectant mother. In some cases, the expecting employee would be permanently replaced by her temporary replacement.
Some employees, not wanting to be a financial burden on the employers and wanting to secure their jobs, continued to work dangerously close to their expected confinement date and/ or returned to work much earlier than legally required, reducing the necessary bonding time with their newborns.
But the NIS has changed all of that and provides insured expecting mothers 12 weeks Maternity Allowance at 60% along with a $500.00 Maternity Grant upon the birth of the baby. Expecting moms are now guaranteed a portion of their salary whilst on Maternity Leave.
2) Employment Injury/ Disablement
In the past, if an employee was seriously injured on the job, there were no laws which required employers to pay for the loss of income whilst the employee was incapable of work. The employee was, in many cases, at the mercy of the employer who assisted financially for whatever period if he so desired. If the employee was rendered permanently incapable of work, he would most likely be forced to sue his employer to receive any form of compensation. In those days, the law limited any civil suit to
$20,000.00 and your employer would most likely find a reason to terminate your employment soon after receiving notice of the suit. If you were lucky enough to win your suit, your money would be short-lived as it would not be able to sustain you for the duration of your life.
The NIS addresses that problem today by providing Employment Injury Benefit at 60% of the employee’s pay until the employee is able to return to work up to a maximum of twelve months. If the employee is unable to return permanently, the NIS may pay him a Disablement Pension of 30- 60% for the duration of his life. In addition to the benefit, the employee may also be entitled to reimbursements for overseas travelling expenses, Constant Attendance Allowance (an additional monthly pension for persons who require the continuous services of a care giver).
Prior to the introduction of the NIS, employees who fell ill and were unable to work were only entitled to twelve days Sick Leave per year with full pay from their employers. Once those twelve days were exhausted, employees would not be paid for any other days of sickness. This meant that employees would have to stay at home sick without any pay until they got better to return to work. Because they would have bills to pay and children to feed, some employees would return to work sick, just to keep money coming into the household. In some cases, employees would return to work only to find that someone else had been hired in their place while they were sick. Depending on the employer, employees were really scared sometimes to miss a day at work although they were truly sick.
The NIS has corrected this serious problem and protect sick workers by paying them 60% of their pay up to a maximum of 6 months illness. Both the employer and the employee do not have to be too concerned about absence on the job due to sickness as the NIS now covers a portion of the employee’ salary at a time when it is really needed.
In the past, if an employee became sick and was unable to work for a very long period, not only would it be likely that that employee not be paid for any time absent from work exceeding twelve days, but that sick employee would most likely be eventually replaced with a healthy employee. Employees who developed a permanent or terminal illness would certainly be released from their jobs usually without any extended form of financial assistance from their employer- government perhaps would have assisted by way of the Welfare Department in their small way.
Today, the NIS provides an Invalidity Pension of 30% – 60% of the employee’s salary for any period of illness exceeding six months which is likely to be permanent for the rest of the employee’s life. Considering the serious battles our country faces today with the problem of HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other long term illnesses, the
NIS is playing a very critical role in financially assisting these persons who can no longer assist themselves.
The average cost of funerals in the TCI over the past 21 years has risen from $600.00 to $6,000.00. In the past, the expenses associated with funerals created many hardships for many families and left them with large debts following the burial of their loved ones. Here too, government sometimes assisted in a small way, whenever possible.
Today, the NIS provides a Funeral Grant of $2,000.00 for an insured person and $1,200.00 for dependants to assist with the funeral expenses. Indeed, there were very few funerals held in the TCI within the past 21 years where the NIS has not contributed financially, relieving some of the burden on family, friend and state.
6) Survivor’s Pension
There is nothing more devastating perhaps than the death of a bread- winner when the survivors are not financially able to care for themselves. In the past, upon the death of a mother or father, the surviving spouse and children were often left to suffer economic hardship and seek the help of family, friends and government just to ‘make ends meet’. Sometimes, in the case of orphans, these children became wards of the state, depending solely on government.
But now, the NIS provides Survivors Pensions in the form of Widow’s, Widower’s, and Children’s Pensions, to ensure that those persons to not face undue financial hardships. Today, persons who pay NIS contributions can go about their lives confident that should something happens to them, their survivors will be financially protected.
7) Retirement Pension
Prior to the NIB, when an employee reached the age of 55 or 60 or became too old to perform with the speed and accuracy in which he once did, the employer would eventually ‘lay him off’ or replace his services with that of a younger person. As pension plans were virtually non-existent in those days with the exception of the government, banks, and some of the large private sector companies, the employee would usually go home empty –handed, with very little or no savings in the bank. Because of this, he and his family suffered.
But now, the NIS provides 30%- 60% Retirement Pension to employees who reach the age of 60 – 65 years and have paid contributions for at least 10 years. This guaranteed pension ensures that the employee and his family enjoy a reasonably good quality of life beyond retirement because it is difficult to save. Saving sometimes calls for extraordinary self discipline. Today, many persons in the TCI today receive and depend on their NIS pensions.
8) Non-Contributory Old Age Pension
Our fathers and fore-fathers slaved for us and built these beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands for us many, many years ago. They had to struggle and fight very hard in years gone just to survive and when they became elderly and unable to work anymore, many found themselves without any form of regular financial assistance. Some of these persons depended on government (often politically determined) to assist them with a mere $40.00 -$60.00 per month to sustain themselves because family and friends could not or did not assist. Unfortunately, these persons were either too old to pay NIS contributions or unemployed to contribute toward a Retirement Pension,
The NIS takes care of these persons (some 484 of them) by providing a Non- Contributory Pension of $250.00 per month for the rest of their lives. This ensures their standards of living, prevents their living in abject poverty and prolongs their lives a little bit longer to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Latest 2012 figures reveal that the National Insurance Scheme distributed over $9,000,000.00 (nine million dollars) to some 1,255 Retirement, Non – Contributory, Disablement, Invalidity and Survivors Pensioners throughout the Islands in the local TCI economy. I can safely say that every single contributor to the Programme has today benefitted / is benefiting in some way from the NIB or is related to / associated with someone who has benefitted / is benefiting from the NIS. These monies provide much needed assistance for the people of the TCI and keep the economy alive.
The National Insurance Programme has indeed elevated and transformed the lives of the TCI people over the years and has become a key player in the development of the TCI, by making us all ‘our brother’s keeper’ with the strong helping the weak, the rich helping the poor, and the young helping the old – just the way it should be. The NIS has allowed development to come and continue in the TCI because it ensures that our most precious and valuable resource (our people) are protected in times of ill health and financial difficulty to facilitate that development. The NIS provides a certain ‘peace of mind’ for our many employers and employees alike and they now worry less about the financial implications of sickness, injury, maternity, retirement and death as they are assured that the NIS will be there for them when they need us.
Deputy Director Operations