Social security coordination: New EU rules for mobile workers

The European Parliament negotiators and EU ministers achieved an agreement on Tuesday 19 March to modernise the rules for the coordination of national social security systems across the EU. New rules have been decided to ensure access to social security for EU workers working in a different EU country, while fairly distributing obligations among Member States.

The new rules focus on facilitating labour mobility within the EU, while safeguarding workers’ social rights across borders, by determining under which country’s system a person is insured. Moreover, an explicit aim is to foster the cooperation between Member States in order to promptly share the necessary information to protect workers’ access to social security and identify errors or fraud.

Overview of the new rules:

  • Fair access to social security for mobile workers in the EU
  • Updated rules for unemployment, family and long-term care benefits
  • Better cooperation between Member States to ensure access to benefits and root out fraud or errors

Family benefits

Negotiators 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 continue to be coordinated following the rules currently applicable to sickness benefits.

Workers sent abroad and fight against abuse

Workers or self-employed persons who are sent abroad for up to 24 months are insured in the EU country where their employer is established. To tackle fraud and errors, they must have been insured for at least three 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.

Background

The shape of the respective social security systems lies within the competence of the Member States. This includes the decision about which kind of benefits are provided, the conditions for eligibility and the calculation of benefits, applying to all social security branches such as pensions, unemployment and family benefits.

The increased mobility within the European Union has made it necessary to put in place regulations that ensure these essential social security rights are not lost when travelling or living abroad. These rules, which have developed over the last 60 years, help determine which system a mobile citizen is subject to. Importantly, it must be ensured that no person is left without social protection benefits or from having double coverage.

In terms of concrete numbers, 17 million EU citizens live and work in another Member State – twice as much as a decade ago. Millions more travel regularly to other European countries for holidays, work and family reasons.

Next steps

This provisional agreement on social security coordination now has to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.

SOLIDAR supports the improvements made in the realm of social security coordination for EU mobile workers to ensure fair, transparent and equal access to these services. Improved coordination and communication between Member States is crucial to make sure all persons are covered. SOLIDAR particularly welcomes the agreement that all citizens – no matter whether they are currently economically active or not – should have access to health care provisions. SOLIDAR notes, however, that significant improvements must be made at Member State level that tackle and improve the quality, eligibility and scope of social welfare provisions. 

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