The unemployment rate in India hit record levels during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and had been increasing until the lockdown ended in mid-May. Labour participation rate has increased to around 40.66% according to data from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), which is close to pre-COVID levels. However, several individuals are still being laid-off as part of restructuring operations, business continuity plans and other measures to cope with the economic consequences of the pandemic. Simpliance has received multiple queries on whether individuals are entitled to unemployment benefits in India? Whether ESI will pay their salaries for the period they are unemployed? Whether this would affect their medical benefits etc.?
This is why we have prepared this document that outlines the schemes available to individuals who are retrenched, the eligibility, quantum of compensation and period during which the same can be availed.
Schemes Offered by Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC)
There are two major schemes under the ESIC that offer unemployment benefits: –
- Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana
- Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana
Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana
The ESIC brought this scheme into effect on 1st April, 2005, its aim was to provide a social security net to insured persons who become unemployed due to one or more of the following events: –
- Closure of factory/establishment
- Permanent disablement of at least 40% arising out of non-employment injury
To be eligible for benefits under this scheme an individual must be an insured person under the ESI Act on the date of loss of insurable employment. This means that an individual was an employee who was contributing to the corpus of the fund to be eligible for availing unemployment benefit. Additionally, the insured person should have contributed to the scheme for a minimum period of 5 years prior to the loss of employment on account of the above-mentioned events.
Unemployment benefits under this scheme can be availed in one period or different periods of unemployment provided that each period shall not be less than one month. In other words, benefits can be sought for numerous spells of unemployment, but they must be a minimum of one month. The unemployment benefit is not combined with other benefits under the act such as sickness benefit, maternity benefit, or disablement benefit during the period where the insured person is without a job. In such a situation, the insured person receiving any of these other benefits shall be given the option to choose which benefit he/she wishes to avail. Any application for unemployment benefit must be submitted by the insured person within six months from the date of loss of employment.
The payment of unemployment benefit is subject to Section-61 of the ESI Act which states that entitlement to any of the benefits under the Act results in disentitlement of similar benefits under other enactments. Payment of unemployment benefit shall continue for a maximum period of twelve months and is equivalent to the Standard Benefit rate that corresponds to the average daily wages drawn by the insured person in the last four completed contribution periods, immediately preceding the date of unemployment.
To avail of unemployment benefits under this scheme the applicant must submit an application to the concerned Branch Office in Form US-1 attached with documentary proof in Form UA-2. The latter is the certificate of closure that may be accepted from an employer if he submits return contributions under Regulation 26(b) on permanent closure of the factory/establishment.
During the period where an insured person is entitled for unemployment benefit, they may also avail medical care for themselves as well as their families from the ESI Hospital/Clinic to which they were attached before loss of employment. In consonance with this, the medical benefit available to the insured person and their family members shall be provided for 12 months. There is also a Vocational Rehabilitation Skill Development scheme under the Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana that aims to reskill unemployed workers to aid them gain employment opportunities.
Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana
On 18th September 2018, the ESIC decided to provide unemployment benefits in the form of cash compensation to insured persons who have been rendered unemployed. The above scheme was launched with the intention of achieving the same is a welfare measure for employees as defined under Section-2(9) of the ESI Act. The scheme was launched vide the Corporation’s powers under Section-19 of the Act that provides that the Corporation may promote measures for the re-employment of insured persons in addition to the framework of benefits specified under the Act.
To be eligible for unemployment benefit under this scheme the insured person:-
- Should have been rendered unemployed during the period where relief is claimed
- Should have been in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years immediately preceding unemployment
- Should have contributed for not less than 78 days during each of the preceding four contribution periods
- Contribution in respect of such an individual should have been paid or payable by the employer
- Contingency of unemployment should not have arisen out of punishment for misconduct/superannuation or voluntary retirement
- Insured person’s AADHAR details and bank account should be linked with the database of insured persons
In case an insured person is working for more than one employer and is covered under the ESI scheme, he will be considered unemployed and only loses all gainful employment.
Benefits under the scheme includes relief in the form of cash compensation to the extent of 25% of the average per day earning during the previous four contribution periods to be paid for a maximum 90 days of unemployment, once in a lifetime of the insured person, that is payable on the submission of claim in the form of an Affidavit (Form AB-1) to the appropriate Branch Office.
Once the insured person has submitted the affidavit to the designated Branch Office a link for generating a claim on the ESIC portal will be provided. The employee can obtain a forwarding letter from his last employer (Form AB-2) generated from the system. He/She must then take printouts of the claim submitted as well as the letter and submit the same to the designated ESIC Branch Office. The employee’s claim will then be assigned a unique ID number that will correspond to his application for benefits.
The claim for relief under the Atal Beemit Kalyan Yojana shall be payable after three months of clear unemployment, prospective claims are barred. In case the beneficiary acquires gainful employment between the three months of unemployment, the relief shall be payable for the clear month of unemployment between the date of unemployment and date of re-employment. The relief under this scheme is payable by Branch Office to insurance directly to their bank accounts, this is why bank account details of the claimant in the ESIC database is a condition that must be satisfied to claim this relief.
An insured person shall not be entitled to any other cash compensation during the period where benefit under this scheme is being availed. This, however, does not apply to periodical payments of permanent disability benefits.
These are the two major unemployment benefits under the scope of the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948. The number of people availing of these schemes is still unclear and the approval-based process may place hurdles before some individuals who find it difficult to establish that they have been retrenched.
If you have any further questions pertaining to eligibility, mode of application or any other matter related to this post, please drop your queries in the comments below.
|Disclaimer: This blog is meant for informational purposes and discussion only. It contains only general information about legal matters. The information provided is not legal advice and should not be acted upon without seeking proper legal advice from a practicing attorney.|
Simpliance makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information on this article.