If you’re living in Portugal, the Portuguese social security system covers several areas of welfare benefits.
The Public Social Security System, provided by the state, comprises the Previdencial (Welfare), Solidariedade (Solidarity) and Protecção Familiar (Family Support) subsystems.
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Social security system in Portugal
The Welfare Subsystem, which is a contributory scheme, covers most employees or similar workers and also the self-employed (although the latter are subject to special conditions). Its aim is to provide financial support to workers who lose their employment income in the following circumstances: sickness; maternity, paternity and adoption; unemployment; occupational diseases; invalidity; old age; and death (survivorship and supplementary support for dependants). In the case of the self-employed, the compulsory protection scheme gives entitlement only to financial support in the following circumstances: maternity, paternity, adoption, unemployment, occupational diseases, invalidity, old age, and death (survivorship and supplementary support for dependants). They may, however, choose a broader protection scheme, based on higher-rate deductions, in which case they also benefit from support in the event of illness.
The Solidarity Subsystem aims to guarantee essential citizenship rights, eradicating poverty and exclusion and providing support in proven situations of personal or family need that are not covered by the welfare subsystem. It comprises a non-contributory scheme, a special social security scheme for agricultural workers and a social integration income.
The Family Support Subsystem covers most people, providing assistance in cases of possible increased family expenditure, particularly in cases of disability or dependency (family allowance for children and young people).
The Social Action System is provided specifically by local authorities and by private non-profit institutions, with the aim of providing special protection for more vulnerable groups such as children, young people, people with disability and the elderly (in particular, by making services and equipment available), as well as in other situations of financial or social need that are not covered by the solidarity subsystem of the Public Social Security System.
The Supplementary System, which is optional, comprises supplementary group-initiative schemes (that include supplementary professional schemes promoted by certain trades unions and, in particular, pension funds, which are financed essentially by employer organisations), individual initiative schemes (which take the form of savings/retirement plans, life assurance, capitalization insurance and mutual schemes), and a public capitalization scheme that is the responsibility of the State, which will complement the benefits provided by the welfare subsystem and of which membership by workers will be voluntary.
Civil servants are covered by a special scheme called ADSE, covering both social security and health.
The public social security system does not cover accidents at work. Employers (or in the case of the self-employed, themselves) are responsible for the full financing of protection against this eventuality. This coverage and a supplementary system covering occupational diseases are normally provided by insurance companies contracted by enterprises. The self-employed must take out their own policies with insurance companies.
It should also be noted that the social security and health schemes in force in the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira have certain particular characteristics, though they are basically the same as those in force in Continental Portugal.
The Department for International Social Security Agreements is the link between Portuguese social security institutions and their foreign counterparts. It is also responsible for providing foreign employees in Portugal with information on their social security rights and obligations – through District Social Security Centres, which are part of the Instituto de Segurança Social (Social Security Institute), are currently able to provide first-line information on this subject.
Employees are entitled to receive benefits only if they are enrolled in the public social security system. Enrolment for social security is for life.
Employers are required to advise the social security system when they hire new workers and to enrol workers not yet registered with the social security system. Every time an employee signs a contract of employment, he also has to advise the social security system of the name of the new employer within 24 hours of the start of a contract, via the District Centre website Segurança Social Directa (Direct Social Security)), by filling in the appropriate form.
Both the employer and the employee enrolled in the social security system are required to pay contributions. The rates generally applicable are 23.75% for employers and 11% (deducted at source from gross pay) for employees.
The self-employed have to pay monthly contributions at a rate of 25.4% of their declared income (if covered by the compulsory protection scheme alone) or 32% (if they opt for the broad protection scheme) of the pay scale chosen by them.
Sickness protection, guaranteed by the general social security scheme, comprises the following benefits:
- Health Insurance.
- Compensatory allowances for holiday pay, Christmas bonus or similar payments.
- These benefits are intended to offset the loss of earnings due to sickness not caused by the job and are awarded to beneficiaries who meet the respective conditions.
Health insurance is awarded on the following conditions:
- Temporary incapacity, certified by the competent health services, the beneficiary being responsible for sending the respective certificate to the social security services;
- Six calendar months, consecutive or separate, with registered earnings, from the date the employee became unfit to work.
It is awarded for a specific period of time:
- No more than 1,095 days (three years); when this period has expired the beneficiary is covered by invalidity protection, if he/she is eligible for the invalidity pension;
- Unlimited time when the disease is tuberculosis;
- It is not paid in the first three days except in cases of tuberculosis, hospitalisation or a disease beginning in the period when maternity benefit is paid that exceeds that period;
- The amount is calculated by applying a percentage to the beneficiary’s reference pay, which varies according to the duration and nature of the illness.
Compensatory allowances for holiday pay, Christmas bonus or other payments are awarded on the following conditions:
- Time off work for a disease eligible for benefit;
- Provision, in an instrument of collective labour regulation or another source of labour law, that such time off prevents the payment of such benefits, either totally or in part.
The following are not entitled to sickness benefits:
- Workers who are imprisoned (they retain only the benefit being paid on the date of detention);
- Employees receiving unemployment benefits;
- Employees who have taken early retirement with total suspension of activity;
- People receiving invalidity or old-age pensions under any social protection scheme, whether in work or not;
- Employees whose incapacity is due to action by third parties for which they are owed compensation.
A special social protection scheme exists for occupational diseases.