SSS running after delinquent employers

TOP OFFICIALS OF SSS IN BICOL, headed by Vice President for Luzon Bicol Division Elenita Samblero (2nd from left) and Luzon Bicol Legal Department acting head Atty. Ma. Charisse Oliver-Velasco (3rd from left), discussed with Gov. Joseph Cua during their courtesy call last Sept. 14, 2022 the need to ensure SSS membership for Job Order employees of the provincial government. At right is SSS Virac branch head Divina Avila.

Six establishments which have been delinquent in paying the Social Security contributions of their employees were visited last week by officials from the Social Security System (SSS) and the local media.

Those visited included a grocery store, bakery, junk shop, a private birthing facility, a computer supplies shop and a cooperative, all in the capital town of Virac.

Elenita Samblero, SSS Vice President of Luzon Bicol Division, said the inspection, the 7th under the Run After Contribution Evaders (RACE) program in Bicol, is intended to instill awareness and discipline among employers of their statutory obligations such as registration of business, reporting of employees and remittance of SS contributions.

“This is not a shame campaign,” she stressed, as the visits’ purpose is to remind the delinquent employers of their obligations and as a warning for them not to allow the matter to reach the court.

We are appealing to employers to avail of the Pandemic Relief and Restructuring Program 3 or the enhanced installment payment program in which penalties on delinquent contributions and past due salary loan amortizations are condoned, Samblero said.

“Sana tugunan na nila ang programang ito ng SSS,” she stated, adding that the agency needs to intensify collection as it already has more than two million pensioners.

The SSS official likewise advised employees that they can anonymously report complaints on non-reporting and non-remittance by their employers.

They can call or send a letter, email or text message to SSS, indicating the name of the employer, number of employees and the period during which delinquency occurred, she said.

Even if the employee has already resigned and does not have a copy of the payroll, he or she can still file a complaint as long as there are witnesses, with the burden of proof on the employer, Samblero stressed.

According to SSS Virac, it has sent billing letters to 289 employers all over the province, with 16 of them receiving demand letters.

Another 558 employers are said to be intermittently paying the contributions of their workers.

Each account officer at the SSS Virac branch office handles 500 employers and is prompted to visit an employer if the payment made does not tally with the number of employees.

The delinquent employers are given 15 days from receipt of the billing letters to act on it while those who have received demand letters have 10 days within which to address the issue before their cases are referred to the legal division.

So far, not one case has been sent for legal action as the erring employers have opted to avail of the enhanced installment payment program.

One Virac employer has been convicted by a local court for non-remittance of SS contributions of employees. The employer appealed the case to the Court of Appeals and, after the CA upheld the conviction, brought it to the Supreme Court for final resolution.

Atty. Ma. Charisse Oliver-Velasco, acting head of SSS Luzon Bicol legal department, said the agency coordinates with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to check if the employer is registered.

“SSS has no visitorial power to enter the establishment and confirm the number of employees,” she clarified, with the DOLE regularly informing SSS of any complaints received from employees.

The common complaints include under remittance, when the employee received P10,000 monthly but the employer pays SS contribution for a lower salary level, and under reporting, when the employer reports a lower number of employees instead of the actual number.

The number of referrals from DOLE has risen this year compared to 2021, Oliver-Velasco disclosed, but cited the sad reality that some employees prefer to settle their complaints.

VP Samblero said that in the past six RACE visits in other Bicol cities, it has collected P2.7 million from the total P7.2 million in collectibles.

Of the 37 employers targeted, 10 have fully paid the past due contributions, 17 are paying by installment while cases have been filed against five of them.

She cited the transition of the SSS to online services to make it easier for the member to determine if the employer is paying the correct contribution.

“We cannot go around it, we have to embrace digitalization,” the VP urged members, saying that the agency is no longer physically accepting applications for maternity, sickness, death and retirement benefits as well as salary loans.

She said that all the member has to do is download the SSS online application on their smart cellphones so they don’t have to go to the SSS branch.

The payments, on the other hand, can be done through GCash, PayMaya, or the banks as options for cash payments so they can pay their contributions anytime and see it posted in real time.

On the other hand, Samblero pointed out, once the enrolled member sees on the app that his contribution has not been paid by the employer, this is already a trigger for him to go to the SSS branch office to file a complaint.

Meanwhile, the SSS officials urged Governor Joseph Cua to encourage the hundreds of job order employees of the provincial government to register as members of the SSS.

Minimum wage earners who are self-employed have to pay only P400 per month to enjoy SS benefits, with no employer share required from the LGU.

Unlike before, VP Samblero stated, self-employed members are already entitled to Employee Compensation pursuant to Republic Act 1199.

Cua said the matter has already been discussed with the Human Resource Management and Development Division two months ago, with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan already considering the grant of authority for the LGU to automatically deduct the SS contributions from the wages of the job order employees who register as members.

JO workers in Virac and Viga have already joined as SSS members, with the provincial government and SSS agreeing to conduct a meeting with the JOs in batches prior to signing a memorandum of agreement.

On the other hand, permanent government employees who are GSIS members may opt for voluntary membership with SSS.

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