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Unemployment funds must transparently provide information about their membership alternatives

"Unemployment funds must openly and clearly publicise the fact that a person can become a member of one of them either as a specific act or at the same time as one joins a trade union," Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja pointed out in a recent decision.

A person who complained to the Ombudsman about the matter took the view that cooperation between trade unions and unemployment funds jeopardised the independent status of the latter.  As an example he mentioned an advertisement by the Metalworkers' Union that gave the impression that the fund was a part of the union's activities. The form for joining the union likewise did not mention that one could become a member of the fund without being a union member.

Trade unions are not within the sphere of the Ombudsman's power of oversight. Unemployment funds, by contrast, independently perform a public task, whereby they must treat clients equitably in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act.

In the view of Pajuoja, unemployment funds must provide open, impartial information about the various alternatives for joining: one can join a fund at the same time as one becomes a member of a trade union, or one can join a fund as an individual member.

Funds should also offer a similar procedure for joining irrespective of which kind of membership a person chooses. Therefore the funds' web sites should contain basic information about individual membership and a link to the relevant form for joining.

The Deputy-Ombudsman paid an inspection visit to the Unemployment Fund of Metalworkers
in the beginning of October. At the moment, the fund's web site contains a mention of individual membership and a link to the form.

The Deputy-Ombudsman asked the Financial Supervisory Authority to investigate the unemployment funds' provision of information about becoming a member. It must pay attention to ensuring that provision of information is uniform and open and makes clear that the funds are independent in their performance of a public task.

The Financial Supervisory Authority must inform the Deputy-Ombudsman, by 1.3.2013, of the measures that it is taking.

Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Juha Niemelä, tel. + 358 (0)9 432 3356.