Year of the Constitution 2022
Titulinė skaidrė
Teismo sudėtis
Salė
Vytis
Lt Fr

News

Content updated: 11-11-2019 14:47

The provisions of the Law on Employment under which students studying under full-time study programmes lose the right to an unemployment benefit are in conflict with the Constitution

31-10-2019

By its ruling adopted today, the Constitutional Court has recognised that Item 5 (wordings of 6 June 2017 and 21 December 2017) of Paragraph 1 of Article 22 of the Law on Employment, insofar as, under this item, an unemployed person is considered to be a person who does not study at a higher education school under a full-time study programme, is (was) in conflict with the provision “Everyone [...] shall have the right [...] to receive [...] social security in the event of unemployment” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 and the provision “The State shall guarantee its citizens the right to receive [...] social assistance in the event of unemployment” of Article 52 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law. In addition, the Constitutional Court has recognised that Item 4 (wording of 6 June 2017) of Paragraph 4 of Article 24 of the Law on Employment is also in conflict with the above-mentioned provisions of Articles 48 and 52 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, insofar as, under this item, the status of an unemployed person is revoked if an unemployed person starts studying at a higher education school under a full-time study programme.

This means that, under the Constitution, it is impermissible that the status of an unemployed person is not granted or is revoked and the payment of an unemployment social insurance benefit is not granted or is terminated solely on the grounds that the person is studying or has started studying at a higher education school under a full-time study programme, provided that the person meets other conditions established in the Law on Employment, among others (and primarily), is of working age and capable of working, has no employment, and is actively seeking it.

Assessing the compliance of the impugned provisions of the Law on Employment with the Constitution, the Constitutional Court noted that, under the Constitution, among others, the provision of Article 52 thereof, stipulating that the state guarantees its citizens the right to receive social assistance in the event of unemployment, the legislature has the discretion to choose and consolidate in laws a model of this social assistance, including the grounds and conditions for its provision. Having chosen a model based on unemployment social insurance, the legislature must ensure that the constitutional right, consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 48 and Article 52 of the Constitution, to social assistance in the event of unemployment is effectively ensured for persons, if they have contributed to this social insurance to the extent prescribed by law, in cases when these persons lose employment but are actively seeking it and are unable to find it due to objective reasons. The Constitutional Court also noted that the Constitution, among others, Paragraph 1 of Article 48, as well as Article 52, gives rise to the requirement for the legislature to regulate the provision of social assistance in the event of unemployment in such a manner that persons, upon losing their employment, could not rely solely on social assistance guaranteed by the state, but the preconditions and incentives would be created for these persons for actively seeking employment, and thereby the state would contribute to ensuring the conditions in line with human dignity for the life of these persons and their families. When the provision of social assistance in the event of unemployment is regulated by means of a law, regard must be paid, among others, to the requirements implied by the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law; this, among other things, means that it is impermissible to prescribe that the exercise of the constitutional right to social assistance in the event of unemployment be subject to constitutionally unjustifiable conditions, which would create the preconditions for the situation in which a person who has lost employment but is actively seeking it and is unable, due to objective reasons, to find it would not receive the respective social assistance.

Therefore, as noted by the Constitutional Court, it would be constitutionally unjustifiable to establish such a condition whereby, upon losing employment, a person implementing the constitutional right to higher education and, at the same time, seeking to exercise the constitutional right to social assistance in the event of unemployment would be compelled to choose a particular form of studies at a higher education school, even though, upon choosing another form of studies, the person would equally be able to combine studies with professional and/or another type of employment.

The Constitutional Court drew attention to the fact that Item 5 of Paragraph 1 of Article 22 of the Law on Employment, Item 4 of Paragraph 4 of Article 24 of this law, and Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law on Unemployment Social Insurance provide for a different legal regulation with respect to persons studying under full-time study programmes and persons studying under part-time study programmes, insofar as the acquisition and retaining of the status of an unemployed person and the right to an unemployment insurance benefit are concerned. Under the said legal regulation, the sole choice of the full-time form of studies at a higher education school determines that the person who has lost employment but meets other conditions established by law (among others, is of working age and capable of working and is actively seeking employment) is precluded from acquiring the status of an unemployed person and the right to receive an unemployment insurance benefit, or must lose such a status, while the payment of the unemployment insurance benefit granted and/or paid to this person must be terminated at the same time. Under the impugned and related legal regulation, a person who has lost employment faces the said consequences solely because of choosing to study under a full-time study programme, despite the fact that the person, among other things, independently and by making use of the labour market services provided by the territorial labour exchange, is seeking employment, as required by law, in order to acquire the status of an unemployed person, as well as despite the fact that no suitable employment opportunities or measures of the active labour market policy have been offered to the person, as required by law, in order that the person could qualify for an unemployment insurance benefit, and despite the fact that this person meets the condition, provided for by law, for qualifying for an unemployment insurance benefit – to have completed the unemployment social insurance period of not less than 12 months during the last 30 months.

The Constitutional Court noted that, under Article 53 of the Law on Science and Studies, studies at higher education schools may be of two forms (full-time and part-time); however, irrespective of the form of the completed studies, the acquired education in both cases is equivalent; under Item 2 of Paragraph 1 of Article 62 of the Law on Science and Studies, the right to study pursuant to an individual plan of studies is granted to all students, i.e. irrespective of their chosen form of studies. Thus, although the law makes provision for different forms of studies, there is no ground for holding that their legal regulation lacks preconditions for combining any of these forms of studies with professional and/or another type of employment.

In view of this, the Constitutional Court held that the impugned legal regulation created the preconditions for the situation in which, having contributed to social insurance to the extent prescribed by law, a person who has lost employment but is actively seeking it and is unable, due to objective reasons, to find it does not receive the respective social assistance.

Therefore, the Constitutional Court drew the conclusion that, having established the impugned legal regulation in Item 5 of Paragraph 1 of Article 22 and Item 4 of Paragraph 4 of Article 24 of the Law on Employment, under which the acquisition and revocation of the status of an unemployed person, thus also the entitlement to and loss of the right to an unemployment insurance benefit, are determined solely by the choice of a form of studies at a higher education school, the legislature disregarded the requirement, stemming from the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution, stipulating that everyone has the right to receive social security in the event of unemployment, the provision of Article 52 of the Constitution, providing that the state guarantees its citizens the right to receive social assistance in the event of unemployment, as well as from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, not to establish constitutionally unjustifiable conditions for implementing the constitutional right to social assistance in the event of unemployment.

Having held this, the Constitutional Court did not further investigate whether the impugned provisions of the Law on Employment are in conflict with Article 29 and the provision “Higher education shall be accessible to everyone according to individual abilities” of Paragraph 3 of Article 41 of the Constitution.

The full text of this ruling of the Constitutional Court can be found on the website of the Constitutional Court at https://www.lrkt.lt/lt/teismo-aktai/paieska/135/ta1986/content.