Monday, 7 September 2015 - 12:12
Sudden cuts to unemployment leave flex workers on edge
A quietly implemented change to the calculation of unemployment benefits, has had negative effects on flexible workers and seasonal workers, whose benefits are suddenly much lower. The change is also affecting those who briefly left unemployment for lower paid jobs and then reapplied for benefits. Minister Lodewijk Asscher of Social Affairs implemented this change to the calculation of unemployment benefits on July 1st, the Volkskrant reports. Such a change does not have to be submitted to the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, and is only published in the official gazette. This resulted in almost no one knowing about the change until complaints came streaming in. A person is entitled to three months' unemployment benefit if he worked at least 26 weeks out of the previous 36 weeks. The benefit lasts longer if he worked at least 52 days in four of the past five years. This applies to, for example, seasonal workers who worked in a beach tent year after year for a few months. The first months of the unemployment benefit amounts to 75 percent of the average daily wage, up to a certain maximum. The change affects the way in which the amount of an unemployment benefit is calculated, which depends on the average daily wage. Up until July 1st, the total wage earned was divided by the number of days worked. If a person had worked throughout the year, the annual income was divided by the number of work days in the year - 261 days. This means that if someone only worked half a year, his wage earned for the year would be divided by 130.5 days to determine the average daily wage. From July 1st, the earned wage is always divided by 261 days, no matter what percentage of the year the person actually worked. This means that for people who only worked six months, the benefit is calculated by dividing their earned wage by 261 days instead of 130.5 days, thereby halving the amount of their benefit. The new calculation method has especially negative effects on people who do not work all through the year, like flex workers and seasonal workers. With the increasing number of flexible workers in the Netherlands, and the reducing number of flexible contracts actually being turned into permanent jobs, this affects a large number of people. The Tweede Kamer reacted indignantly now that the first complaints from unemployed people are coming in. According to the Volkskrant, critical questions were set by both PvdA parliamentarian Roos Vermeij and D66 parliamentarian Steven van Weyenberg. The SP has asked for a debate on the matter, with spokesperson Paul Ulenbelt calling it "obscene". Asscher agreed to investigate the negative effects. "I've also had responses and I think we should have a good look at them." he said. The Minister defended the change with the following example: If an employee worked the entire year for the same employer and earned 80 euros in the first six months and 90 euros in the following six, his daily wage would be 85 euros. Another employee worked only six months and earned 90 euros. Before the change, his daily wage was 90 euros, after the change it is now only 45 euros as he did not work for half of the year. "It is strange that someone who worked for a short time gets a higher benefit than someone who worked for a long time."