MEPs want more flexibility, clarity for EU mobile workers

Member States to cooperate in order to counter abuses and fraud linked to letter box companies

Guillaume Balas

Modernised rules for coordinating social security systems were adopted last Tuesday by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee with a focus on facilitating labour mobility while safeguarding rights in cross-border situations by determining under which country's system a person is insured, the EP press service reported.

Updated rules aim to protect fair access to social security while distributing obligations fairly and fostering cooperation among member states, MEPs stated. Additionally, new provisions foster cooperation between Member States so that the necessary information is promptly shared, ensuring workers' access to social security and identifying error or fraud.

“Ensuring social rights for all Europeans is not a variable to be adjusted depending on the economic situation in different member states; it is, on the contrary, an indispensable condition for the defence of a Europe of progress. Social Europe cannot be achieved without real social protection for all, and this will require a tangible improvement in social rights and stronger rules to combat the abuse and fraud at the expense of European workers,” rapporteur Guillaume Balas (S&D, FR) said.

MEPs agreed that an insured person could retain unemployment benefits for six months after leaving a Member State and this Member State would be able to prolong the period until the benefit expires. Furthermore, insurance periods completed elsewhere should accumulate. Aggregation would kick in after a worker is insured in a new member state for at least one day. Separately, frontier and cross-border workers should be given a choice of whether to receive unemployment benefits from the last Member State of activity or from the Member State of residence, depending on where they have better job prospects.

MEPs also agreed that family benefits in cash, which are primarily intended to replace income when a person has given up work to raise a child, should be distinguished from other family benefits, so that they count as a personal benefit for the parent concerned in a competent Member Sstate. In cases where family benefits in a place of residence and in a place of insurance overlap, member states would be able to allow such personal benefits to be kept.

Provisions meant to avoid protection gaps and establish legal clarity and transparency regarding long-term care benefits for an insured person that requires assistance were also adopted. In accordance with the case-law of the EU Court of Justice, long-term care benefits for insured persons and members of their families should, in principle, continue to be coordinated following the rules applicable to sickness benefits. The updated rules take into account the specific nature of long-term care benefits and the needs of economically active and inactive persons.

Workers (including self-employed persons) sent abroad for up to 18 months remain entitled to receive benefits in the Member State where their employer is established, provided that they were insured there for at least 3 months. The competent institution in the sending member state would have to be notified prior to workers being sent abroad. 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.

The rules final form will now be decided during talks between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission.

 

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