Rehabilitation benefits P 34/15
‘The challenged provision does not infringe the essence of the right to social security in conjunction with the principle of social justice and the principle of appropriate legislation,’ stated the Constitutional Tribunal.
On 25 April 2017 at 14 p.m., the Constitutional Tribunal publicly delivered its ruling, issued at a sitting in camera, on the question of law referred by the District Court in Gliwice (the 6th Division – Labour and Social Insurance) with regard to rehabilitation benefits.
The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 18(7) of the Act of 25 June 1999 on social insurance benefits in the event of an illness or maternity – insofar as the provision eliminates the possibility of granting a rehabilitation benefit to an insured person who has the right to an old-age pension, the payment of which was suspended due to the continuation of employment, and where the said right had been determined by a decision of an authority competent within the scope of disability pensions – is consistent with Article 67(1) in conjunction with Article 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland
The ruling was unanimous.
The constitutional issue presented in the question of law amounted to answering the question whether a restriction of the right to a rehabilitation benefit of an insured person who was granted the right to an old-age pension and who suspended receiving an old-age pension due to his/her continuation of employment constitutes an infringement of the essence of the right to social security and the principle of appropriate legislation.
The legislator has adopted the rule that a rehabilitation benefit does not constitute an additional benefit, but – by constituting the continuation of a sickness benefit – it temporarily becomes the insured person’s only source of income. Therefore, the said benefit may not be granted to persons who are eligible to receive an old-age pension, but who suspended receiving the said pension due to the continuation of employment.
The Constitutional Tribunal drew attention to the fact that the Constitution guarantees merely such level of social security benefits which will provide citizens with necessary financial means to meet at least their basic needs. Within the remaining scope, the legislator determines the ambit, form and content of social rights, taking into account, inter alia, the economic situation of the state, the ratio of employed persons to persons paying insurance premiums, as well as the number of benefit recipients and their financial situations.
The Tribunal held that the persons whose right to an old-age pension had been determined by a decision of an authority competent within the scope of disability pensions. The said evaluation was not changed by the fact that the persons refrained from receiving the benefit due to their continuation of employment. Indeed, the suspension of the payment of a benefit does not constitute the deprivation of the right to that benefit, but merely temporarily stops the said payment, in accordance with the wish of the person concerned. In the event of the continuation of employment, persons who have acquired the right to an old-age pension will still keep that right. At any point after the reason for the said suspension has ceased, the persons may apply for the resumption of the payment. A relatively long period during which a sickness benefit may be received constitutes a sufficient guarantee of the possibility of deciding whether they wish to resume receiving an old-age benefit.
Moreover, the Tribunal stated that the challenged provision does not raise any reservations as to the application thereof. An eligible person who has acquired the right to an old-age pension may not obtain a rehabilitation benefit. Any doubts as to whether the term ‘a person eligible to receive an old-age pension’ should also comprise an insured person who has the right to an old-age pension, the payment of which was suspended due to the continuation of employment, and where the said right had been determined by a decision of an authority competent within the scope of disability pensions, have already been dispelled in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.
Taking into account the legislator’s considerable discretion as regards determining the content of social rights, the Constitutional Tribunal deemed that the challenged provision does not infringe the essence of the right to social security in conjunction with the principle of social justice and the principle of appropriate legislation.
The hearing was presided over by Judge Julia Przyłębska, and the Judge Rapporteur was Judge Zbigniew Jędrzejewski.