Today, the Riigikogu concluded amending the Family Benefits Act. Among other things, in the future the special protection period of parental benefit in the case of successive births of children will be extended from 2.5 years to 3 years.
The Bill on Amendments to the Family Benefits Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (185 SE), initiated by the Government, will specify the payment of child benefit for children under 16. Pursuant to the Bill, the payment of parental benefit can be suspended and continued according to a parent’s choosing on the basis of calendar months until the child attains three years of age. The Bill also specifies that parental benefit can be suspended and continued only after the child attains 70 days of age. The amendments will ensure legal clarity so that mothers who are not entitled to maternity benefit could use their individual right to a benefit during the first 70 days of life of the child, and this right would not be transferable to the father later with a suspension of the parental benefit.
The Bill would also extend the period of successive births, during which the new parental benefit is calculated on the basis of earlier income, to three years. The amendment is necessary in order to ensure the livelihood of families upon successive birth of children, to prevent the postponement of desired births and to bring the provision on the same bases as the length of parental leave.
Besides that, the regulation regarding the payment of maintenance allowance during the enforcement procedure would be amended. The Bill would create the possibility to start paying maintenance allowance three months sooner. This would improve the livelihood of parents raising their children alone and enable them to ensure the growing environment necessary for the child.
The Bill also specifies the payment of child benefit for children under 16. Under the current Family Benefits Act, a child who is enrolled in a basic school or upper secondary school, or a child without secondary education enrolled in formal vocational education has the right to receive child allowance until he or she attains 19 years of age. The child benefit is paid retroactively for summer months in the case when the young person continues his or her studies in the same year after graduation from a basic school. Currently, there is no direct legal basis for paying family allowances for summer months in the case of young people who have completed a year at a secondary school or their formal vocational education and wish to study at another school or another specialty. There were rules for that in an earlier version of the Act, but they had been omitted by mistake in the course of the amendment of the Act, although the legislature has not wished to essentially change the relevant practice. The purpose of the amendments proposed by the Bill is to restore the earlier procedure and to ensure payment of child allowance for such children in summer months, too.
Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction) took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act (206 SE), initiated by the Government, will increase flexibility in the unemployment insurance benefit system, and will provide people greater social protection in the event of unemployment. The Bill provides for the possibility of temporary working, or doing gigs or small jobs, while registered as unemployed.
Pursuant to the Bill, it will be possible in the future to work temporarily for up to eight days a month while registered as unemployed. The Bill provides that while registered as unemployed, a person may temporarily work during 12 calendar months in a 24-month period, and the remuneration paid for each period of temporary work in a specific calendar month must not exceed 40 per cent of the minimum wage in that year. This year, the minimum wage is 584 euro and 40 per cent of it is 233 euro.
Besides allowing gigs or small jobs, the Bill also specifies calculation of unemployment insurance benefit in a situation where the insured person worked in Estonia before becoming unemployed, and before that outside Estonia. The Bill would change the amount of unemployment benefit in the context of both the unemployment insurance benefit and the unemployment allowance, and also the conditions for receiving the unemployment insurance benefit in order to facilitate the seasonal working of the unemployed.
The Bill will specify the calculation of the unemployment insurance benefit in a situation where the insured person has been working in Estonia before he or she loses his or her job and, before that, outside Estonia in another contracting state of the European Economic Area or in the Swiss Confederation.
The replacement rates of unemployment benefits will also change: in the first hundred days of unemployment, the unemployment insurance benefit will be 60 per cent of previous income, instead of the current 50 per cent, and the unemployment allowance will be 50 per cent of the minimum wage in the previous year, instead of the current 35 per cent.
To facilitate seasonal employment of the unemployed, the Bill will amend the conditions for receiving the unemployment insurance benefit so that if a person loses their job again after the end of seasonal work, the payment of the benefit will continue if the benefit has not been paid for all days of the previous period of the payment of the benefit and no more than 12 months have passed since the person took up employment.
The Bill provides for the entry into force of the Act on 1 September 2020 when the provisions on temporary employment will enter into force. The increase in the replaced rate of the unemployment insurance benefit will enter into force on 1 August 2020. The changes to the replaced rates will thus concern the benefits calculated from 1 August, and they will have no retroactive effect.
During the debate, Signe Riisalo (Reform Party), Heljo Pikhof (Social Democratic Party) and Urmas Espenberg (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
Due to the end of working hours of the sitting, the first reading of one Bill was adjourned in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Bankruptcy Act and Other Acts (195 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic, will increase the efficiency of bankruptcy proceedings and thereby improve the functioning of the business environment. Among other things, the Bill will provide for establishing an insolvency service, changing the system of remuneration of trustees, extending the obligation to file bankruptcy petition, speeding up of determining the number of votes of creditors, and specialisation of courts.
The procedure for defending and acceptance of claims will also be reorganised. Currently, the defending of claims takes place at a meeting of creditors for the defence of claims, and disputes concerning claims are solved in separate and time-consuming proceedings. According to the Bill, in the future defending of claims would be conducted in writing and acceptance of claims would take place in court in one procedure. Substantiation of objection will be mandatory, and the list of claims to be accepted without defence will be amended, which will result in reduction of disputes over claims.
The Bill also provides for greater specialisation of courts on insolvency matters, as a result of which the judges will adjudicate the cases faster and in a more uniform manner. Adjudication of insolvency matters of legal persons will take place in Tallinn and Tartu County Courts. In the case of natural persons, the jurisdiction will remain the same.
The system of remuneration of trustee in bankruptcy will also be made more transparent and predictable. Pursuant to the Act currently in force, the remuneration of a trustee is calculated on the basis of the size of the bankruptcy estate, and the trustee does not have to keep working time records and prepare an expected action plan. The Bill will propose that in all proceedings, a trustee should plan their expenses and possible remuneration at the beginning of proceedings and keep records of working time. This will make the proceedings more transparent and enable the courts and the creditors to better estimate the formation of the remuneration of trustee.
In the bankruptcy proceedings of natural persons, that are simpler by their nature, it will be possible to pay the remuneration as a one-time fixed operation fee. When the trustee decides to accept operation fee, they do not have to keep records of working time.
The remuneration of trustee will also cover the trustee’s general costs, like the office expenses. In connection with that, the minimum and maximum amounts of remuneration of trustee will be increased by 21 per cent, which is the average rate of general expenses.
Obligation to file bankruptcy petition will be extended. Pursuant to the Act currently in force, it is possible that in the absence of members of management board, nobody has the obligation to file bankruptcy petition. The amendment will extend the obligation to file bankruptcy petition to persons who have the duty to ensure the existence of management board. For example, in the case of a private limited company, such persons are the members of governing council or the shareholders. They will not be held responsible if there is a management board.
In connection with the unexpected and abrupt change of economic situation as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Bill temporarily enables to make changes to reorganisation plan and debt restructuring plan more flexibly. The Act which is currently in force does allow changing reorganisation plan. Such a possibility is temporary and relevant applications can be submitted up to the end of 2020.
The first reading of the Bill will continue on Wednesday.
As replying to interpellations was adjourned due to the end of the working hours of the Riigikogu on Monday, discussion of two interpellations was added to the agenda of Tuesday’s sitting, and the debates continued at the beginning of today’s sitting.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas continued replying to the interpellation concerning the monitoring of the budget expenditure (No. 35) that had been submitted to him. During the debate, Maris Lauri (Reform Party), Aivar Sõerd (Reform Party), Taavi Rõivas (Reform Party) and Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party) took the floor on behalf of the interpellators.
The reply to the interpellation concerning the Road Management Plan for 2020–2030 (No. 25) by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas was also postponed to the agenda for today’s sitting. At the debate, Aivar Sõerd (Reform Party), Urmas Kruuse (Reform Party), Jüri Jaanson (Reform Party) and Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) took the floor on behalf of the interpellators. At the open microphone session, Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party) took the floor.
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