“Nikita” is a 27 years old single mom and works for a popular restaurant in Baguio’s Central Business District. Last June 20, 2020 she received a letter from her employer stating that the Covid 19 pandemic had a dramatic effect on all businesses. Reading further, the company with the present business situation decided to reduce its workforce then the sad news that her employment has been terminated effective June 30, 2020.

 Nothing is as frightening as losing your job with short notice, more so if you’re the family’s breadwinner.

Sadly, this is the reality for most Filipinos who rely on employment as their only source of income. To ease up this burden, the Social Security System (SSS) unemployment benefit comes to the rescue as one of the key provisions of the Republic Act 11199 (also known as the Social Security Act of 2018). Employees who just got laid off can have a temporary source of income to keep things afloat while they’re looking for a new job.

Here is a simple guide on how to apply or file an SSS unemployment benefits claim Over the Counter: The three simple steps are: 1. Complete the SS unemployment benefit requirements: a. Original copy and photocopy of at least one (1) valid ID; b. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Certification with the attached Notice of Termination or Affidavit of Termination of Employment and a UMID-ATM card or a Union Bank of the Philippines (UBP) Quick Card;  2. File your unemployment benefits claim at any SSS branch, and 3. Receive the cash benefit.

A lot of workers are asking who are qualified to get SSS unemployment benefits. Well, the SSS unemployment insurance or involuntary separation benefit is available to employees, including the kasambahays and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), provided that they meet the following qualification requirements. Applicant must not be more than 60 years old at the time of sudden unemployment. However, a lower age requirement is applied for those working as an underground/surface mineworker and racehorse jockey who must NOT be over 50 and 55 years old, respectively and has paid at least 3 years (36 months) worth of monthly contributions, 12 months of which should be in the 18-month period immediately preceding the month of involuntary separation/unemployment; with no settled SSS unemployment benefit within the last 3 years prior to the date of unemployment. You can only apply for this benefit ONCE every three years so if you already received this benefit within this period, you’ll be disqualified to get another one and has been involuntarily separated/laid off due to a valid reason.

This valid reason can either be one of the authorized causes for termination of the employee under Articles 298 (283) and 299 (284) of P.D. No. 442 (Labor Code of the Philippines), as amended: Installation of labor-saving devices; redundancy; retrenchment or downsizing; closure or cessation of operation; or disease/illness of the employee whose continued employment is prohibited by law or is prejudicial to his or his co-employees health.

One of the causes that allow an employee to quit his job without notice to the employer, as stated under Article 300 (285) of P.D. No. 442 (Labor Code of the Philippines), as amended. These are serious insult by the employer or his representative on the honor and person of the employee; inhuman and unbearable treatment accorded the employee by the employer or his representative; commission of a crime or offense by the employer or his representative against the person of the employee or any of the immediate members of his/her family; and other causes that are analogous to any of the foregoing. Other causes of termination are economic downturn (e.g., job loss due to the recession); natural or man-made disasters/calamities and other similar cases to be determined by the SSS or the DOLE.

However, not all employees who were involuntarily laid off can avail of the unemployment insurance from SSS. As a rule, employees can’t get unemployment benefits if the cause of the termination is one (or more) of the causes stated under Article 297 (282) of P.D. No. 442 (Labor Code of the Philippines), as amended. These are: serious misconduct; willful disobedience to lawful orders; gross and habitual neglect of duties; fraud or willful breach of trust/loss of confidence; commission of a crime or offense; or similar cases like abandonment, gross inefficiency, disloyalty/conflict of interest/dishonesty.

In other words, you are qualified to get the benefits if the reason why you’re laid off is outside of your control and not caused by your negative behavior. Otherwise, you’ll be disqualified and your employer has the upper hand in preventing you from getting the unemployment insurance.

The SS unemployment benefit requirements as follows: a) original copy and photocopy of at least one (1) valid ID. You can bring any one of the following primary ID card/documents: Unified Multi-Purpose ID (UMID) Card (SSS/GSIS); SS card; Alien Certificate of Registration; Driver’s License; Firearm Registration; License to Own and Possess Firearms; National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance; Passport; Permit to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence; Postal Identity Card; Seafarer’s Identification & Record Book; or

Voter’s ID Card; b) DOLE Certification with the attached Notice of Termination or Affidavit of Termination of Employment. All qualified employees who want to avail of the SSS unemployment insurance/benefits are required to secure a DOLE certification establishing the nature and date of the involuntary separation.

To apply for the DOLE certification, you need the following: at least one (1) valid ID (see the previous section). However, most DOLE offices require an original copy and photocopy of 2 valid IDs so make sure you bring an additional ID on the day of your application; and either a copy of Notice of Termination of Employment issued by the employer (also known as “Termination Contract”) or a duly notarized Affidavit of Termination of Employment (see a sample here; you need to scroll down to view the sample affidavit). The second one is preferred in case your relationship with the employer didn’t end in good terms and there’s no way for you to obtain the Notice of Termination of Employment. You need to bring an original copy and photocopy of the document. Certification Form (to be given by DOLE).

END/Patrick Rillorta