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Deputy Ombudsman Pölönen criticises the procedures of municipalities in directing people to rehabilitative work activities

In the period September 2017–August 2018, the Parliamentary Ombudsman received seven complaints on rehabilitative work. Among other issues, municipalities have been criticised for obliging unemployed persons to participate in rehabilitative work activities contrary to their service needs, at the risk of losing unemployment benefits. Some of the municipalities subject to the complaint justified directing the unemployed to rehabilitative work activities by referring, among other things, to the fact that a municipality pays part of the labour market subsidy for those receiving long-term labour market subsidy. The content of rehabilitative work activities as well as the fact that the rehabilitative work activities replaces work in public or private sector employment has also been criticised. 

Rehabilitative work activities are activities organised by a municipality. Its purpose is to improve a person’s life management skills and create favourable conditions for employment. Rehabilitative work activities do not lead to a public or private sector employment relationship between the person and the party organising or implementing the activity. According to the Act on Rehabilitative Work, the activation plan should include rehabilitative work activities if the Employment and Economic Development Office, municipality and the person themselves estimate that, due to limitations in the person’s working and other capabilities, he or she is unable to participate in public employment services or work. 

Deputy Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen notes that lack of suitable public employment services does not constitute adequate grounds for directing a person to rehabilitative work activities. Furthermore, the long-term persistence of unemployment or the payment of labour market subsidy does not justify to conclude that a person is subject to limitations in his or her working and other capacity. If, under the threat of loss of unemployment benefit, a person is obliged to participate in rehabilitative work activities contrary to his or her service need, the direction of the person into such work is in breach of the principles of good administration (principles of appropriateness and objectivity). 

In addition, the Deputy-Ombudsman has drawn attention to the provisions concerning the implementation and content of activation plans. Activation plans have not always included all of the statutory elements required. 

Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen’s decisions EOAK/5424/2017 and EOAK/274/2018 are available in Finnish on the Ombudsman’s website www.oikeusasiamies.fi

For further information, contact Senior Legal Adviser Päivi Pihlajisto, tel. +358 9 432 3388.