Where persons are no longer in paid employment and not claiming social welfare benefits, there are two options available which allow the possibility to maintain their social insurance record.
Credited contributions are social insurance contributions designed to protect the social insurance record of insured workers who are not in a position to make PRSI contributions. For example, during periods of unemployment, credits can cover these gaps in social insurance. In order to qualify for unemployment credits a person must be fit for, available for and genuinely seeking work. Credits can also be awarded for a day of notified incapacity for work, periods of statutory leave or while a person is in receipt of certain social welfare payments.
In order to qualify for credits, an individual must previously have entered insurable employment and must have paid at least one PRSI contribution at Class A, B, C, D, E, H or P. Contributions paid at Class J or S are not reckonable towards the award of credited contributions.
In general, credited contributions can be awarded where a person has had a recent attachment to the workforce i.e. within the last two years. Credits are usually awarded at the same class as the last paid PRSI contribution. For example, if a person paid Class A PRSI in their last employment and are eligible for credits, the credits will protect their potential entitlement to Class A social insurance benefits.
Separately, voluntary contributions are designed to maintain the social insurance record of persons who are no longer employees, or are self-employed and no longer making compulsory PRSI contributions. The Voluntary Contributions scheme facilitates the payment of contributions directly to the Department on a voluntary basis.
Voluntary contributions can help a person to qualify for certain long-term social insurance payments such as pensions in the future but they do not cover short-term benefits such as illness, maternity or jobseeker's benefits.
To become a voluntary contributor, a person must be under pensionable age, currently 66 years, and have paid at least 520 weeks of compulsory PRSI from either employment or self-employment prior to application. A person can apply to join the scheme within 60 months from the end of the year in which contributions were last paid. A person must also no longer be covered by compulsory PRSI in Ireland and must not be covered by PRSI on a compulsory or voluntary basis in another EU country.
It is advisable for any person seeking information on credited or voluntary contributions to contact their local Intreo office, who will be able to discuss options available to the person in order to maintain their social insurance record.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.