March 2016 Restricting EU Migrants Benefit Entitlements

04/03/2016

If some of you gave up trying to work out what the latest deal means for EU migrants rights to in-work benefits and to child benefit, below is a very short summary.

The European Council agreed that proposals will be submitted for amending existing EU secondary legislation in relation to providing for an emergency brake on access to in-work benefits.

This will provide for an alert and safeguard mechanism that responds to situations of inflow of workers from other Member States of an exceptional magnitude over an extended period of time, including as a result of past policies following previous EU enlargements. A Member State wishing to avail itself of the mechanism would notify the Commission and the Council that such an exceptional situation exists on a scale that affects essential aspects of its social security system, including the primary purpose of its in-work benefits system, or which leads to difficulties which are serious and liable to persist in its employment market or are putting an excessive pressure on the proper functioning of its public services. After having examined the notification and the reasons stated the Council could authorise the Member State concerned to restrict access to non-contributory in-work benefits to the extent necessary. This could take the form of permitting that Member State to limit the access of newly arriving EU workers to non-contributory in-work benefits for a total period of up to four years from the commencement of employment. The limitation should be graduated, from an initial complete exclusion but gradually increasing access to such benefits to take account of the growing connection of the worker with the labour market of the host Member State.

Significantly perhaps it was also agreed that the kind of information provided to it by the UK shows that the type of exceptional situation that the proposed safeguard mechanism is intended to cover exists in the UK today and that, accordingly, the UK would be justified in triggering the mechanism in the full expectation of obtaining approval.

Specific proposals were also agreed in relation to child benefit. The intention of these proposals is to give Member States, with regard to the exportation of child benefits to a Member State other than that where the worker resides, an option to index such benefits to the conditions of the Member State where the child resides. This should apply only to new claims made by EU workers in the host Member State. However, as from 1 January 2020, all Member States may extend indexation to existing claims to child benefits already exported by EU workers.

The European Council says that it expects the arrangements set out above will become effective on the date the Government of the United Kingdom informs the Secretary-General of the Council that it has decided to remain a member of the European Union, but that should the result of the referendum in the United Kingdom be for it to leave the European Union, the set of arrangements will cease to exist.

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