By Leslie Ann Aquino, October 14, 2020; Manila Bulletin

All self-employed members of the Social Security System may now start registering to the Employees’ Compensation Program, the Employees’ Compensation Commission announced on Tuesday.

ECC Executive Director Stella Zipagan-Banawis announced this after signing a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) with SSS President and CEO Aurora Ignacio pursuant to the ECC Board Resolution No. 19-03-05 on promulgating the Policy on Expanding the Coverage of the Employees’ Compensation Program (ECP) to the Self-Employed Compulsory Members of the SSS.

Labor Secretary and ECC Chairperson Silvestre H. Bello III said the ECC has been working hard in pushing for the expansion of EC coverage to self-employed members of the SSS.

“We are happy for this milestone development made by the ECC and SSS as it endeavors to cover almost 3 million self-employed workers,” Bello said in a statement.

“The inclusion of our self-employed compulsory members of the SSS is a manifestation that we are true to our commitment to provide meaningful benefits and services to all workers, both in public and private sectors,” he added.

A self-employed is one engaged in any trade, business or occupation, who has no employer other than himself or herself, derives an income from his or her physical and mental efforts, and who is not over 60 years of age (if initial coverage).

Under the JMC, starting September 2020, the Payment Reference Numbers (PRNs) to be issued by SSS for self-employed members will already include EC contributions.

As for those self-employed members, who have already paid their contributions in advance, a separate PRN will be emailed to notify them to pay their EC contributions corresponding to the period September 2020 until the last applicable month of advance payment.

Payment deadlines applicable for SS contributions shall also apply for the EC contributions of self-employed members.

At present, EC contributions are pegged at P10 per month for workers with monthly salary credit (MSC) of below P15,000 and P30 per month for those with MSC of P15,000 and above.

Considered as self employed individuals are professionals, who have their own business offices; partners, single proprietors of businesses, and Directors or Trustees of the Board of corporations duly registered with appropriate government agencies; actors, directors, scriptwriters, and news correspondents who do not fall within the definition of the term ”employee”; and professional athletes, coaches, trainers, jockeys, individual farmers, and fisher folks.

Workers in the informal sector such as market and ambulant vendors, transport workers, and those similarly situated; contractual and job order personnel engaged by the government through a Contract of Service and who are not coverable under the GSIS Law; and any other self employed workers as determined by the Social Security Commission (SSC) under such rules and regulations that it may prescribe are also considered as self employed.

According to ECC, as of September 2019, there are about 37.8 million workers registered under the SSS and about 7% percent of the registered members or 2.64 million are self-employed workers.

The ECP is a government program designed to provide both public and private sector workers and/or their dependents with a package of benefits such as loss of income benefits, medical benefits, carer’s allowance, and rehabilitation services in the event of work-connected contingencies such as sickness, injury, disability, or death.