Times taken by unemployment funds to process benefit applications have shortened
Unemployment funds have succeeded well in their efforts to reduce the times they take to process benefit applications, notes Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja. The average time needed to process an initial application was 2 - 3 weeks at the beginning of the year, whereas in 2009 it was 3 - 4 months at its longest. Nevertheless he believes that the funds should aim to reduce the processing time for initial applications to two weeks at most.
Joblessness and lay-offs causing backlogs at unemployment funds
Unemployment and temporary lay-offs generated a large number of new initial applications for benefits last year, and a bad backlog built up in their processing.
About 60 complaints concerning the unemployment funds' long processing times were made to the Ombudsman in 2009. Waiting times were long at especially the beginning of a period of unemployment or lay-off. In October 2009 Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja asked the unemployment funds about which most of the complaints had been made to supply him, by the end of the year, with tracking data on the development of processing times.
Processing times at the turn of the year
By the turn of the year, the processing time for initial applications was down to less than three weeks at IAET-kassa, about two weeks at the Metal Workers' Unemployment Fund and an average of three weeks at the Unemployment Fund for Salaried Employees.
IAET-kassa's membership is comprised of upper-echelon salaried employees, such as engineers, architects and economists in the industrial and service sectors.
Situation at Kela has remained under control
An unemployed jobseeker who does not belong to an unemployment fund can receive either basic per diem benefits or a Labour Market Assistance subsidy from Kela, the Social Insurance Institution.
A report requested from Kela revealed that the average time taken to process applications for basic per diem benefits or Labour Market Assistance was one week in December 2009.
Backlog at Appeal Board
Decisions of the unemployment funds and Kela can be referred to the Unemployment Security Appeal Board.
Nearly 9,000 cases were referred to the Board in 2009 and decisions were issued in about 8,500 of them. The number of appeals grew especially strongly in the autumn.
The average time taken to handle an appeal has been 6 - 7 months. The Board is trying to prevent processing time lengthening.
Besides the increase in the number of complaints, the fact that in the past three years the Board has issued decisions in fewer cases than the number that have been referred to it is a problem. At the turn of the year, the backlog of cases awaiting resolution at the Board was 4,500.
There is a danger that processing times will increase at the Board. To keep track of the situation with regard to processing times, the Deputy-Ombudsman has requested a report on the matter by 31.5.2010.
Additional information will be provided by Legal Adviser Juha Niemelä, tel. +359 (0)9 4321.