The freedom of movement granted by the CSME to certain categories of workers and the self-employed and their families would have been deprived of much of its effect if persons, in exercising these rights, risked losing out on social security (national insurance) benefits acquired in their home state.
Heads of Social Security Systems were aware of this reality and so in 1997 in collaboration with the respective governments of CARICOM, the CARICOM Reciprocal Agreement was established.
The purpose of the agreement is to protect the benefit rights of migrant workers and their dependants by implementing two fundamental principles:
The following 14 countries signed on to this Agreement:
The agreement allows for the payment of voluntary contributions. Permission to pay the contributions is dependant on the number of contributions made in the participating states. In other words, the contributions will be added together (this is the concept of totalization).
The benefits will not be reduced, modified, suspended or forfeited if the insured persons or their survivors reside in a state other than where the benefit is payable.
However, the agreement does not allow any person to receive two benefits of a similar nature at the same time.
Persons will be subject to the legislation of the State where he/she is currently employed. If persons are employed on a ship, then the legislation of the State where the ship is registered will apply.
In the case of the Self-employed Coverage, persons will be subject to the State where they work.
If persons made compulsory contributions in one state and become a voluntary contributor in another, they will be guided by the provisions of the Country where they have made the compulsory contributions.
The reciprocal agreement makes provisions for persons in cases where the legislation of more than one of the participating states apply. If you or any insured person is disadvantaged by the application of certain provisions of the agreement, then the relevant authorities could by mutual agreement make exceptions for the application of this convention in the interest of the person(s) affected.
This is especially so for diplomats, persons working on ships, voluntary and self-employed contributors and others who reside in countries other than their place of work.