Employment MEPs want to ensure more flexibility and clarity for EU mobile workers

Thyssen 2018 EMployment

Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.© European Union , 2014

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


Updated rules for EU mobile workers aim to protect fair access to social security while distributing obligations fairly and fostering cooperation among member states.

The modernised rules for coordinating social security systems, adopted by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on Tuesday, focused on facilitating labour mobility while safeguarding 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, ensuring workers’ access to social security and identifying error or fraud.

Unemployment benefits

  • Export of unemployment benefits: 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.
  • Uniform rules for aggregation of periods: 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.
  • 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.

Family benefits

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 state. 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.

Long-term care benefits

Employment Committee MEPs also adopted provisions meant to avoid protection gaps and establish legal clarity and transparency regarding long-term care benefits for an insured person that requires assistance. In accordance with the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, 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 sent abroad

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.

Guillaume Balas (S&D, FR) the lead MEP, said: “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 defense 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”.

Background: 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 citizens have the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the country where they are covered (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.

Next steps

The text was adopted with 29 votes to 19, and 5 abstentions. The final shape of the rules will now be decided during talks between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission.

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