Case Studies » Social Insurance » Insurability of Employment - from 2015 Annual Report (ref: 2015/27)
Background: The appellant applied for a State Pension (Contributory) and his claim was rejected as he did not have the required 520 full-rate social insurance contributions paid. In completing his application form, he indicated that he had started work with a named employer on 1 July 1965 at which time he was aged 17 years. However, his social insurance record indicated that his date of entry into insurance was 6 December 1965 and that 4 contributions had been recorded in that year. His claim was rejected and details of his social insurance record were provided when he was notified of the decision. On receipt of the notification, the appellant wrote to the Deciding Officer, stating that he had started work on 1 July 1965. The case was referred for investigation by a Social Welfare Inspector and she reported that the person who owned the business at the time had since died. However, the owner’s son confirmed that the appellant had been an employee but said that his father’s record keeping was non-existent and that it was possible the appellant’s date of commencement had been incorrectly recorded. The Inspector recommended that the appellant’s social insurance record be amended to show his date of entry as 1 July 1965. However, the Deciding Officer concluded that there was insufficient evidence to amend the appellant’s record and that his date of entry into social insurance should remain as stated.
Oral hearing: The appellant attended, and the Deciding Officer and Social Welfare Inspector were present at the request of the Appeals Officer. The Deciding Officer outlined his decision and explained that, notwithstanding the report of the Inspector and the statements made by the appellant, he was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to warrant an amendment to the appellant’s social insurance record. He advised that the registry sheet recorded the details of the stamped card used at the time, and was the primary source of information. He stated that, in the appellant’s case, the registry sheet gave the date of commencement as 6 December 1965. He identified three keys elements to confirm that start date: the registry sheet, the fact that it was the date given by the appellant when he applied for his insurance card, and 4 contributions were recoded for 1965 which was consistent with the period from 6 December 1965 to the end of the year.
The appellant recounted his memory of starting work and insisted that he did not start in the month of December. His recollection was that he started soon after his 17th birthday and he recalled hitching to and from work and arriving home at 7 p.m. in the evening when it was still bright. He said he would not have started work in the darkness of mid-winter without a secure lift to and from work. He made reference to an incident involving payment for a tool box and inaccuracies with the record keeping in the company, and suggested this might account for the incorrect date having been stated. He stated that he had no recollection of applying for an insurance card or being asked to supply one by his employer.
The Social Welfare Inspector advised that there had been an agent, engaged by the Department of Social Welfare in the 1960’s, whose task it was to ensure that employers stamped social insurance cards. She said it was known that the agent, whom she named, would visit employers towards the end of the year and arrange for social insurance cards to be stamped and to supply cards for any new employees that had started in the course of the year. She said it was possible that the appellant’s employer had obtained a social insurance card from the agent at the end of the year and that the date it was supplied was recorded as the start of his employment.
Consideration: The Appeals Officer examined the question as to whether there were sufficient grounds to treat as paid those contributions which the appellant submitted should have been recorded in respect of his first employment with the named employer, and prior to his stated commencement date of 6 December 1965. The relevant legislative provisions are outlined in Article 70 (3) (a) of the Social Welfare (Consolidated Contributions and Insurability) Regulations, 1996 (S.I. 312 of 1996). He noted the appellant’s assertion and direct evidence at the hearing that he did not start in the month of December 1965 and his clear recollection of arriving home when it was still daylight. He found his evidence in this regard credible and convincing.
The Appeals Officer noted the appellant’s consistency and the fact that in completing his pension claim form in 2013, he had given his start date as 1 July 1965. This was before his application was rejected, when the implications in terms of pension entitlement were not known to him. He noted also that the Social Welfare Inspector had a good knowledge of the history of social welfare services in the area and that she had been clear in her evidence as to the likelihood of a mistake in relation to the appellant’s start date.
While the Appeals Officer noted the Deciding Officer’s reasons for not amending the appellant’s social insurance record, he found that the evidence adduced at oral hearing was persuasive and sufficient to treat the unpaid contributions as having been paid. He determined that 22 social insurance contributions should have been paid in respect of the period 1 July 1965 to 5 December 1965 and that these should be treated as paid for the purpose of the appellant’s right to benefit in accordance with the provisions of Article 70 (3) (a) of Statutory Instrument No. 312 of 1996.
Outcome: Appeal allowed.