Social Security/Health Insurance – Ireland

1. Health Insurance
2. Other Social Security Schemes

In Ireland legally employed and self-employed sex workers, for instance waitresses, dancers, masseurs, who have the right to remain in Ireland and whose employer holds an employment permit in respect of them, may register for all aspects of the state run welfare system. This includes the state pension scheme, social security and health care.

However, since the introduction of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Act, 2004, a person needs to be habitually resident in Ireland before she qualifies for social welfare allowances such as unemployment assistance, a State pension, or other benefits. For the purpose of assessing a persons’ habitual residence, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown, that a person is not habitually resident in the State at the date of the making of the application the benefit concerned unless she has been present in the State or any other part of the Common Travel Area for a continuous period of 2 years ending on that date. ‘Other part of the Common Travel Area’ means the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Please note:
It is not possible to work legally as a prostitute and prostitution is not recognised as a profession in Ireland. It is therefore not possible for women working in prostitution to avail of the pension scheme, social security or health care.

1. Health Insurance

A. Health Care Schemes (State-Organised)

1. Migrant Sex Workers with a Residence Permit and Work Permit
Migrant sex workers who hold a valid residence permit and work permit have access to the State run Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) scheme, which entitles them to pension, social security and health care, if they have made the relevant contributions.

A special health service for sex workers is the Women’s Health Project of the Eastern Health Board. However, the Women’s Health Project does not provide general medical care, dental care, ophthalmological care, pre- or ante-natal care. It is a specialist project which provides services such as psychological care, gynaecological care, HIV tests, STD tests, STD treatment, contraception and a non-directive pregnancy counselling.

Please note:
The Women’s Health Project of the Eastern Health Board works only in the Dublin area.
Please note:
Abortion is legal only if the life of the mother is at risk. Otherwise abortion is not permitted in Ireland.
a) Self-Employed Prostitutes

Self-employed prostitutes cannot register within the state-organised health care schemes. They need private insurance, which may be provided to them because information regarding a persons’ profession or immigration status are not normally required when registering with private health insurers.

b) If Employed as a Barmaid/Waitress/Dancer

Migrants employed as barmaids, waitresses, dancers etc. holding a residence permit and work permit may register for health care schemes like all other employees.

Should they experience health problems that are covered by the Women’s Health Project, they may also avail of their services.

2. Migrant Women without Legal Status
Women who are not legally resident in Ireland for at least two years are generally excluded from social security and health care schemes. However, in some instances they may qualify for emergency payments (in the case of homelessness for example). The specialist medical services offered by the Women’s Health Project are also available for non-insured or illegally resident migrant sex workers.

Some sex workers may be entitled to medical cards (if they are in receipt of social welfare payments or on a low income), which would mean they could access many health services free of charge, for instance general medical care (HIV test, STD test, contraception – these are available through the Women’s Health Project for all women working in the sex industry but limited to the Dublin area), pre- and ante-natal care, delivery.

Please note:
Accident and emergency treatment in hospital casualty departments will also be provided without legal status. However, the hospital may seek to recover its costs at a later stage.

B. Private Health Insurance

It is possible to obtain private health insurance as a sex worker. Women who do not have a legal basis to remain in Ireland and therefore may not register with the state organised health care schemes may be able to register with private health insurers because information regarding a person’s legal status and profession is usually not requested by insurers.

There are two companies where migrant sex worker can obtain private health insurance, namely BUPA and VHI.

2. Other Social Security Schemes

Women working in prostitution cannot register within the general social security system, unless they are covered by the system for reasons unrelated to their activity as a prostitute (e.g. as the spouse of an Irish national who does not have sufficient means to support her).

A. Women Employed as Barmaid/Waitress/Dancer with a Residence Permit and Work Permit

Sex workers who are employed as barmaids, waitresses, dancers etc. must register for tax, pension and social security schemes like all other employees. Contributions are deducted directly from the employee’s salary and paid to the Revenue Commissioners.

B. Migrants without Legal Status

Migrants who do not have any right to remain in Ireland would not be able to register for pension schemes or social security benefits.
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