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Can you go to your home country when you get sick?

The municipality took sickness benefits from Ejdis because he had traveled home to Latvia, but the union helped him overturn the municipality's decision.
Edijs Pupolus home in Latvia
Edijs Pupolus home in Latvia

Edijs Pupolus is from Latvia, but he went to Denmark in 2018, to work in a medium-sized Danish company he had heard about from his sister's husband. The work consisted of casting concrete floors on construction site after construction site all over Denmark.

Edijs actually liked the work, the colleagues, and the pay, but it is hard work to lay the heavy concrete out by hand, and Ejdis was slowly worn down. After about three and a half years in the industry, Ejdis began to have pain in the lower back in April 2021. He reported being sick for two weeks where he went to a chiropractor via Pensiondanmark. It got a little better, but the pain quickly came back.

On the afternoon of May 26, his back finally stopped, and Ejdis had to write the following message to his employer: "my back is hurting like hell, and I can not work".

It can be argued that Ejdis had been exposed to an occupational injury with the right to 8 weeks 'sick pay according to the collective agreement. But since the pain had come gradually, Ejdis choose to report it as a common illness, with the right to only four weeks' sick pay. After the four weeks, Ejdis received his sickness benefits from the municipality. He received the mandatory letter from the Municipality in its E-box, and replied within the eight-day deadline.

On July 27, Ejdis received another letter in his E-box. This time it was from the Jobcenter who invited him for a follow-up interview. A mandatory interview that all people on sickness benefits must participate in. During the interview, you get into how the treatment is going, and the possibilities for getting well and back to work. The letter also states that you can request a telephone meeting if you are unable to attend the meeting in person.

The municipality stops the sick pay, with retroactive effect!

Ejdis had by that time become aware that it was a serious injury, and had therefore chosen to go home to Latvia where he could talk properly with the doctors, and be with his family. Therefore, he calls the Jobcenter to arrange a telephone meeting. During the interview, Ejdis explains that he has gone home to Latvia, to get medical help in his own language, but the Jobcenter interrupts the interview and sais that they will stop his sickness benefits from the time when he went home.

Two days later, Ejdis receives another letter from the Jobcentre in E-box. This letter stated, among other things:

“In the conversation that took place in English, you informed us that you can not show up at the job center on 5. August 2021. When asked about the reason, you informed us that you are currently in Latvia to receiving medical treatment, where you feel more secure and would like to avoid misunderstandings. We informed you that the doctors in DK speak English. (..) Based on the above, it is our assessment that the sickness benefit payment must be brought to an end with the last payment date of 22 July 2021, which is the date you have informed the Jobcenter, you were last in Denmark."

It was the municipality's position that Ejdis must be in Denmark to receive sickness benefits, but this is not how the rules are described in the European Commission website. Here it says:

“The country where you are insured is always responsible for paying your sickness, maternity or paternity benefits in cash, i.e. benefits that replace a wage that has been suspended due to sickness. These benefits will be paid according to the rules of the country where you are insured, regardless of where you are living or staying. 


So It is Denmark's duty to pay out Ejdis' sick money, regardless of which EU country he resides in. As long as Ejdis lives up to his duties and, for example, participates in interviews with the Job Center.

3F-BJMF is participating in the fight

There are probably a lot of migrant workers who have either never received sick pay and sickness benefits, or have had their sick money taken from them because they have gone home to the family. This is because the vast majority of migrant workers do not join Danish unions, so they have no one who can help them when they get injured at work or just get sick. 

But that was not the case for Ejdis. He was a member of 3F BJMF, and he made sure to contact the union as soon as he became ill. 3F was therefore on the sidelines right from the start.

Social worker in 3F BJMF Pernille Rasmussen, complained to the municipality about their decision on behalf of Ejdis. In this complaint, Pernille emphasized the current rules on social security in the EU and that Ejdis read in his E box and acted on the mails that came. At the same time, Ejdis had medical documents from an MRI scan he had had done in Latvia, which showed that there was a collapse in a disc in the back. These documents were attached to the complaint, along with an English translation made by the union.

Appeals against the municipality's decisions often takes three months, but in this case, it was settled in two months. On October 25, the municipality wrote to 3F-BJMF with the following response to the complaint:

“We have reconsidered our decision after we received your appeal against the decision to terminate the payment of sickness benefits for your member, which we made on 23 August 2021. We have decided to change our decision and hereby decide to resume sickness benefit payment for your member."

One week later, Ejdis received three months sickness benefits from the Municipality.

Ejdis had at this time received the message from his doctor that he should never again work hard physical work, such as casting concrete under floors. And today he has got new, and less physically demanding work as a cabinetmaker at a factory in Latvia.

Notify the Jobcentre before you leave Denmark

Social worker in BJMF Pernille Rasmussen, has the following advice for migrant workers who work in Denmark:

“The union will take the individual cases for our members when they arise, but it is important for all migrant colleagues to; reads their E box, respond to the mail they receive there, go to the doctor, secure documentation that they are ill and notify the Jobcentre if they want to leave Denmark. Although they have the right to go home when they are ill, they should, for safety's sake, inform the Jobcentre before they leave." 

Read more here: https://tema.3f.dk/bjmfimmigrant/health-and-safety-at-work/sickness-benefit-rights 

In addition, Pernille will of course recommend the migrant workers to become members of the union, and contact us when they become ill. In Denmark, the workers take care of themselves and each other, in that we all pay to the health insurance via the tax, and to the trade union via our membership fee.