The Riigikogu supported the proposals of the Chancellor of Justice to bring the Parental Benefit Act and the lifelong restrictions on the choice of area of activity and profession into conformity with the Constitution.
The Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise made a proposal to the Riigikogu to bring the relevant section of the Parental Benefit Act into conformity with the principle of equal treatment arising from subsection 12 (1) of the Constitution.
The Chancellor of Justice considered it necessary to avoid unjust reduction of parental benefit. At present, persons who receive parental benefit are treated unjustifiably unequally depending on when they earned the income that brought about a reduction in parental benefit.
The proposal of the Chancellor of Justice brings out that parental benefit is paid also in the case when the person who receives the parental benefit works. If the income from work received in one month does not exceed the limit established by law (EUR 390 per month this year), the person who receives parental benefit receives both the income earned and the parental benefit granted to him or her. It may happen that the employer is late with the payment of the remuneration that the person has earned while working during the period when he or she received parental benefit. If the remuneration for several months, paid out as a lump sum due to the fault of the employer, exceeds the limit, this bring about a reduction in parental benefit.
The Chancellor of Justice referred to the fact that every year there are about ten cases where a person has earned remuneration before the period of parental benefit and receives it later.
She said that, already under the current Act, a person who receives parental benefit must notify when such a situation has arisen due to the delay on the part of the employer, and also submit relevant documents.
“So this will involve no additional expenses for the state. The only consequence that would arise from acceptance of this proposal would be an equal situation for all persons who receive parental benefit,” she said.
The Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Kalle Laanet gave an overview of the discussions that had been held in the Committee and pointed out the decision of the Committee to support the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice.
The Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee Aivar Kokk said that the members of the Committee had found that persons who receive parental benefit must not suffer because the employer fails to perform its duties, and he pointed out the decision of the Committee to support the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice.
Member of the Centre Party Faction Anneli Ott, who took the floor during the debate, supported the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, but she pointed out that, similarly to the payment of parental benefit, there was injustice also in regard to paternity leave. Member of the Reform Party Faction Yoko Alender also supported the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice. In addition, she pointed out that parents might be given greater freedom in using parental benefit.
64 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, nobody was against and there were no abstentions.
As the Riigikogu endorsed the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, a proposal was made to the Social Affairs Committee to initiate a relevant legislative amendment.
The Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise made a proposal to bring the lifelong restrictions on the choice of area of activity and profession into conformity with the Constitution. In her proposal, the Chancellor of Justice noted that it is necessary to bring into conformity with § 29 of the Constitution the Acts that provide for lifelong restrictions on entering the public service or engaging in areas of activity relating to state authority or administration of justice, and do not allow to take into account the person who has been punished or the act committed by him or her when deciding on the employment in service or release from service of a person who has committed a criminal offence.
The proposal of the Chancellor of Justice brings out that, at present, in the case of several offices, lifelong prohibitions are in force that do not allow to employ or employ in service persons who have been convicted for criminal offences. The prohibitions are absolute and take no account of the person, the particular criminal offence or the fact that the punishment has been served and the information concerning the punishment has been deleted from the criminal records database. Many offices are precluded with a lifelong prohibition in the case of punishment for any criminal offence, including the cases where the offence no longer qualifies as a criminal offence or the person committed it when he or she was a minor.
“It is absolutely clear that the commission of certain criminal offences must indeed result in lifelong preclusion from employment in certain offices, and in such a case the person who employs a person or employs a person in service must have official access to the archives of the criminal records database and then also be able to give reasons to the person: yes, the door is closed to you for your whole life,” the Chancellor of Justice said.
According to the Chancellor of Justice, the Supreme Court stresses that the fact of punishment may accompany a person for whole life only in the case when it is proportional to the aim pursued, i.e., in this case, logically necessary to ensure integrity of state public service and humanly fair.
The Chancellor of Justice has pointed out in her proposal that the additional restrictions accompanying a punishment must in any case be reasoned and in conformity with the constitutional right to freely choose area of activity, profession and position of employment.
The Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Jüri Adams pointed out the decision of the Committee to support the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice.
The Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee Heljo Pikhof gave an overview of the discussions that had been held in the Committee and pointed out the decision of the Committee to support the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice.
Member of the Reform Party Faction Igor Gräzin took the floor during the debate.
63 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, nobody was against and there were no abstentions.
As the Riigikogu endorsed the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, a proposal was made to the Legal Affairs Committee to initiate a relevant legislative amendment.
The Minister of Social Protection Margus Tsahkna presented to the Riigikogu “The Welfare Development Plan 2016-2023”. The development plan has been drafted under the leadership of the Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with other ministries, social partners, cooperation partners and interest groups with a view to create a strategic approach and develop measures and activities that help to improve the independent coping of people, to create equal opportunities to participate in the society and labour market, and to promote gender equality.
The Minister pointed out that it is a document approved by the Government of the Republic which sets out the development objectives of social protection and labour market at the state level for the next eight years. The reporter said that the volume of the implementation of the development plan is 18.1 billion euro. In view of this, in the national perspective, it is a development plan with one of the largest budgets. “The Welfare Development Plan will serve as the basis for planning the state budget in the planning of the activities in the spheres of employment, social protection and equal treatment,” the Minister said.
“The priorities of the Welfare Development Plan are a high level of employment and a long, high-quality working life, reduction of social inequality and poverty, gender equality, and greater social inclusion,” the Minister said.
Tsahkna said that the development plan focuses on guaranteeing social security to all people living in Estonia. “What do we have in mind under social security then? We have in mind a situation where all people are guaranteed opportunities to be active participants in the life of the society according to their abilities. This sentence indeed captures the aim, the principles of this development plan. Our aim is not to use this 18.1 billion euro over these years simply for the purpose of ‘distributing’; we will have to bring about essential changes.”
The development plan will be implemented over the period of 2016-2020 on the basis of the implementation plan. The implementation of the political instruments, measures and activities of the development plan will be financed from the funds of the state budget and the European structural funds and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism, and the state budget possibilities will be taken into account in the planning of the activities.
The Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee Aivar Kokk gave an overview of the discussions that had been held in the Committee.
In the opinion of member of the Free Party Faction Monika Haukanõmm, who took the floor during the debate, a welfare development plan is needed, but she drew attention also to the weak points, or the points to develop, in the development plan. Member of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction Aivar Kokk said that the development plan incorporates the best practices.
One Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the State Assets Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (171 SE), which will simplify the administration of state assets and support the development of enterprise, passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. According to the amendments, in the future, local governments will have the possibility to apply for land without charge from the state in the case when they wish to make important investments to develop enterprise. In other situations, local governments will have to pay 65 per cent of the usual value of the land during five years upon application for land for enterprise. The amendments will simplify the administration of state assets, in particular as regards the transfer of assets from one authority to another. The amendments will reduce the workload of authorities, and the rounds of approval.
One Bill passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Product Conformity Act (247 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, will amend the Product Conformity Act by adding the regulation concerning the fees charged for mandatory accreditation. The Chancellor of Justice has found that the Product Conformity Act is in conflict with the Constitution because it contains no regulation concerning the fee charged for mandatory accreditation. The aim of the Act is to eliminate the legal deficiency in connection with the fee charged for mandatory accreditation.
The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Legal Aid Act (210 SE), initiated by the Centre Party Faction, was adjourned in the Riigikogu due to the end of the working hours.
The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (218 SE), initiated by the Free Party Faction, and the first reading of the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a Proposal to the Government of the Republic in connection with the Sphere of National Payment Instruments” (216 OE), submitted by the Free Party Faction, were postponed to Wednesday’s sitting.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201605311000
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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