EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Portability of social security rights

In general, social security benefits must be paid in whichever Member State the beneficiary resides. There is the exception of a certain category of benefit called ‘special non-contributory benefits’, which fall between the traditional categories of social assistance and social security. These are aimed at particular problems such as care for people with disabilities or the prevention of poverty, and are payable only in the country that provides them, and beneficiaries cannot export them to another Member State. A citizen, however, is entitled to receive the benefits of this nature that are provided in the host country. In addition, any citizen temporarily staying or residing in a Member State other than the one in which they are insured against sickness is entitled to receive sickness benefits in kind according to the legislation of this Member State as if they were insured there – at the expense of the relevant insurance institution.

However, the Commission has identified several problems that are unduly restricting the portability of social security rights. Quoting the respective European Court of Justice case law, it stated, for instance, that it would be discriminatory not to allow equivalent tax deductions for a migrant worker’s contributions for an occupational pension and private sickness and invalidity insurance. The Commission also identified similar problems in relation to specific social advantages, such as public transport reductions for large families, child raising allowances and funeral payments (see Commission Communication of 11 December 2002 on ‘Free movement of workers – achieving the full benefits and potential’).

See also: free movement and social security; free movement of workers; mobility of workers; portability of supplementary pensions; social protection; third-country nationals.

Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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