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Content updated: 21-05-2019 13:13

The legal regulation limiting the amount of maternity (paternity) allowances ruled constitutional

24-01-2018

By its ruling adopted today, the Constitutional Court has recognised that Paragraph 5 of Article 6 of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance (hereinafter referred to as the Law) was not in conflict with the Constitution insofar as the said paragraph provided that the maximum compensatory earnings for the calculation of maternity (paternity) allowances could not exceed the sum of the 3.2-fold amount of insured income, approved by the Government for the given year and valid in the month of the acquisition of the right to a maternity (paternity) allowance. The provisions of Items 7 and 10 of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, as approved by a government resolution, where these provisions implement this legal regulation, have also been ruled to be in compliance with the Constitution.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court noted that the legislature had established the legal regulation governing payment for childcare leave granted to one of the parents (adoptive parents) or a guardian, based on social insurance. A maternity (paternity) allowance established by the Law had been granted and paid for the period of childcare leave as provided for in the Labour Code. The impugned legal regulation had limited its amount, even though, under the Law on State Social Insurance, for most insured persons no income threshold had been applied above which state social insurance contributions, among other things, for sickness and maternity social insurance, had not been paid, i.e. no ceiling had been imposed on state social insurance contributions.

The Constitutional Court noted that state support to families raising and brining up children at home, as guaranteed in Paragraph 1 of Article 39 of the Constitution, differs substantially from the guarantee of paid leave before and after childbirth to working mothers, as consolidated in Paragraph 2 of this article. Paragraph 1 of Article 39 of the Constitution does not consolidate the duty for the legislature to establish specifically such a form of support as leave for raising and bringing up children at home; nor does it establish the amount of state support provided during this leave. Thus, having chosen leave for raising and bringing up children at home as one of the forms of state support to families, as guaranteed in Paragraph 1 of Article 39 of the Constitution, the legislature has, under the Constitution, the broad discretion to establish the grounds and conditions for granting this leave, its duration, and the amounts of financial support provided for during this leave; moreover, it is not obliged to prescribe such an amount of this support that would correspond with the average remuneration received prior to such leave.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court also noted that, in Lithuania, such a model of state social insurance has been chosen under which, by means of the funds collected from the compulsory state social insurance contributions of persons employed in the current period, not future allowances for the persons who pay these contributions but allowances for the current recipients of these allowances are financed. Under the Law, in order to acquire the right to a maternity (paternity) benefit (in addition to other established conditions), it had been enough to have completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period of 12 months in the last 24 months and, during this period, to have paid relatively small (if compared with the established general rate of contributions for state pension, sickness and maternity, and unemployment social insurance) state social insurance contributions for sickness and maternity social insurance. Thus, it is obvious that, within the prescribed period, a person had not been able to pay such an amount of contributions (such a sum thereof) that these contributions would compensate a maternity (paternity) benefit granted to him/her, all the more so throughout the entire period of payment of this benefit – one or two years at his/her choice, which is far longer than the minimum duration of childcare leave established in the Directive of the Council of the European Union of 8 March 2010. Therefore, there are no grounds to directly link the amount of the paid social insurance contributions to the amount of the maternity (paternity) benefits being paid.

The Constitutional Court noted that the Law had established not only the maximum amount of a maternity (paternity) benefit but also its minimum amount – a maternity (paternity) benefit per month could not be less than one third of the insured income of the given year valid in the month when the childcare leave started. Therefore, the legal regulation establishing the maximum amount of a maternity (paternity) benefit and not limiting the amount of state social insurance contributions (by not prescribing the ceiling on social insurance contributions) creates more possibilities for the formation of the budget of the State Social Insurance Fund allowing to ensure at least the maternity (paternity) benefits of the minimum amount for persons in the lowest income group.

In the light of the above-mentioned arguments, the Constitutional Court held that, by means of the impugned legal regulation, the legislature had implemented its discretion, stemming from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 1 of Article 39 thereof, to choose sources from which financial support provided during the period of leave for raising and bringing up children at home would be financed and to establish the amounts of financial support provided during this leave, which would not necessarily need to correspond with the average remuneration received by the recipient of the allowance before the leave. Having established the maximum amount of this support when no ceiling of state social insurance contributions had been established, and following the constitutional principles of the social orientation of the state and social solidarity (in addition, that persons receiving higher remuneration can contribute more to the accumulation of funds necessary for social support), the legislature had sought to ensure the financial stability of the state social insurance system and the balance between the interests of all persons participating in this system, as well as to distribute, to a certain extent, the burden of the implementation of obligations among the members of society. There are no grounds for stating that such distribution had not been constitutionally grounded and proportionate or that it had denied the social orientation of the state and the obligations that stem for the state from the Constitution.

It should be mentioned that the legislature may also provide for other forms of support to families raising and bringing up children at home, among other things, develop the flexible forms of working to create favourable conditions for working parents to reconcile raising and bringing up children at home and occupational (professional) activity.

The text of the ruling is available on the website of the Constitutional Court at  http://www.lrkt.lt/lt/teismo-aktai/paieska/135/ta1788/content.