Rules for adequate unemployment benefits in Denmark
The European Committee of Social Rights reviewed the report submitted by the Danish government on the level of social security in Denmark. Under Article 12, the Committee considered that one of the aims of an unemployment benefit system is to offer unemployed persons adequate protection during at least an initial period of unemployment from the obligation to take up any job irrespective of their occupational field, with a view to giving them the opportunity of finding a job which is suitable taking into account their individual preferences, skills and qualifications. The Committee recalled that it found the 2002 amended rules on job-seekers’ availability to be very stringent and decided to wait for further information. According to this information, unemployed persons in Denmark were obliged to take any reasonable job from the first day of employment, which includes jobs outside the individual’s occupational field. Reasonable work was any work that the individual is able to perform. Moreover, unemployment benefits may be suspended for three weeks for refusing to taking up an offer of reasonable employment.
This case is significant because the Committee considered this measure to undermine the adequate coverage of the unemployment risk for which every worker has contributed during his working activity. The report indicated that a new Workers’ Compensation Act relating to work accidents and occupational diseases entered into force in 2004. The act simplified the notion of injury into two categories – work accidents and occupational disease, and introduces procedural changes for the processing of claims. Under the new act self-employed persons can insure themselves in the same way as employers do for their employees. Compensation is provided for loss of earning capacity, for permanent injury, in case of death and for loss of family provider. The Committee concludes that the situation in Denmark is not in conformity with Article 12(3) of the European Social Charter on the grounds that there was no reasonable initial period during which the unemployed may refuse a job not matching with his previous occupation and skills without losing his unemployment benefits.