European Interest

Fair access to social security for mobile workers in the EU

Flickr/Alexander Mueller/CC BY 2.0

Good news for mobile workers in the European Union: New rules aim to ensure access to social security for EU workers who have moved to a different EU country, while fairly distributing obligations among member states.
An agreement on modernised rules to coordinate national social security systems was reached by Employment Committee negotiators and EU ministers on Tuesday. The new rules focus on facilitating labour mobility within the EU, while safeguarding workers’ social rights in cross-border situations, by determining under which country’s system a person is insured (i.e. paying contributions and receiving benefits).
Additionally, new provisions foster cooperation between member states, so that the necessary information is promptly shared to protect workers’ access to social security and identify errors or fraud.
Unemployment benefits: when and where
Export of unemployment benefits: negotiators upheld the EP position that an insured person could retain unemployment benefits for six months after leaving a member state. This member state would be able to prolong the period until the benefit expires.
Uniform rules for aggregating periods: insurance periods completed elsewhere should accumulate, after a worker is insured/employed/self-employed in a new member state for at least one month without interruption (in accordance with the national legislation under which the benefits are claimed).
Special provisions to apply to frontier and cross-border workers, who will be able to receive unemployment benefits, once they have completed at least six months of uninterrupted employment and from the last member state in which they were active, for a longer period than six months.
Employment services should provide better assistance to frontier/cross border workers in the countries concerned, given their particular situation.
Family benefits
Negotiators also agreed that family benefits in cash, intended to replace income when a person gives up work to raise a child, should be distinguished from other family benefits and count as a personal benefit for the parent concerned.
In cases where family benefits in a place of residence and in a place of insurance overlap, member states would be able to allow the same person to keep both, while other overlapping family benefits of the same kind would be suspended.
Long-term care benefits
Long-term care benefits for an insured person that requires assistance, and for members of his/her family, should, in principle, continue to be coordinated following the rules currently applicable to sickness benefits.
Workers sent abroad and fight against abuse
Workers or self-employed persons sent abroad for up to 24 months (and not replacing a previously sent employee) remain insured in the EU country where their employer is established. To tackle fraud and errors, they must have been insured for at least 3 months before being sent abroad and must notify the competent institution in the sending member state.
Member states should cooperate using the notification system to rule out abuse, such as letter box companies for which the worker’s residence cannot be established, and guarantee that workers have social security protection.
Finally, negotiators agreed, in line with the EU Court of Justice that economically inactive mobile citizens should have access to health care.
“We reached a progressive agreement that puts workers at the centre of our interest. In times of increased labour mobility, protecting social rights is of utmost importance. If workers move to another country, they can export up to six months of unemployment rights from one country to another, and, for frontier workers, after 6 months of activity, they will be entitled to export up to 15 months of unemployment benefits. Member states will no longer be able to apply unilaterally national periods. This leads to more social security of workers in Europe,” said Rapporteur Guillaume Balas, S&D negotiator for the European Parliament.
“I am glad to succeed in the posting and applicable legislation that additional rules will improve the cooperation between member states and strengthen the tools to address potential cases of abuse. A new tool will be the introduction of an obligation of notification in advance of the start of a working activity in another member state in all cases, except business trips. We Socialists and Democrats are against loopholes for the disadvantage of employees,” he added.
Current principles on coordination of social security systems
Citizens are covered by the legislation in one country at a time and only pay contributions in one country (prevention of overlapping benefits).
Foreign EU citizens have the same rights and obligations as nationals (principle of equal treatment or non-discrimination).
Previous periods of insurance, work or residence in other countries are taken into account when granting a benefit.
Cash benefits from one country can be paid throughout the EU and most of them can be exported.
The informally agreed text will have to be confirmed by a plenary vote before the end of the current legislature to enter into force.

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