Information by EU states

General Information

Social Security

Social security entitlements cover a range of social provision, which differs from one member state to another. EU legislation helps to minimise the difficulties this can cause for mobile workers, and the main provisions are set put in this chapter.

1. Social security provisions

Social security provisions cover :

  • Health care – in kind (hospitals, medicines etc.) and in cash (sickness and are normally paid in accordance with the legislation of the country in which you are invalidity benefits etc.). Both staying, but entitlement may need to be demonstrated through an E-form, (see below), which should be obtained before leaving.
  • Payments based on social insurance, where entitlements are based on contributions the worker has made to national insurance funds. It is important to be sure contribution records are ‘aggregated’ as you move, so there is no loss of entitlement or imposition of ‘waiting periods’ before you qualify for benefit. There is EU legislation governing this –see below.
  • Social assistance – payments made in case of need to those who have inadequate social insurance. This type of provision is often known as a ‘safety net.’ It is usually means-tested, and, unless explicitly linked to a social insurance benefit, will be governed by the rules of the country of residence.
  • Retirement pensions funded through State agencies, which may be related to supplementary pension schemes funded in other ways in different countries. See below for further detail.
2. EU legislation

There is EU legislation on :

  • Sickness and maternity
  • Accidents at work
  • Occupational diseases
  • Invalidity benefits
  • Old-age pensions
  • Survivors’ benefits
  • Death grants
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Family benefits
3. Proof of Entitlement

It is often necessary to prove to the authorities in the country of residence that an entitlement to benefit exists, either simply through nationality, or through other qualification such as the existence of children in the family. This proof is done through E-forms, which should be obtained in the country of origin. They may be obtained in the country of residence should the need arise, but this may lead to substantial delays.
The most important forms are

  • Series E 100 for posted workers, and for entitlement to sickness and maternity benefit: of these,
    • E111 is for immediate access to emergency treatment
    • E119 is for job-seekers
    • E106 or E128 is for full access to health care for employed or self-employed persons and family members living with them in the same country
    • E109 is for family members living in a different country to the working person
  • Series E200 forms are used for the calculation and payment of pensions
  • Series E300 is used for entitlement to unemployment benefits
    • E303 covers job-seekers specifically
  • Series E400 covers entitlement to family benefits.

4. EU Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72 and State Social Security

Article 42 of the EU Treaty requires the EU Council to adopt measures in the field of social security to provide for freedom of movement for workers who are Member State nationals and for their dependants. The principal regulations adopted under this provision are Council Regulations (EEC) nos 1408/71 (basic regulation) and 574/72. These have been amended several times and now cover employed and self-employed persons, civil servants (including those covered by special social security regimes, students and pensioners, together with their family members and survivors, whatever their nationality. These regulations also apply to relations between Member States, and are extended to non-EU states under the EEA Agreement (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). Since 1.06.2002, they have also applied to relations between the European Union and Switzerland, under the agreement on the free movement of persons. These Regulations prohibit the exclusion of other EU (or EEA or Swiss) nationals states from a state's social security system. In addition, following the amendments that came into force on 1/06/2003, these regulations apply also to all third country nationals legally residing in a Member State (with the exception of Denmark). Readers are reminded that, prior to this date, only “stateless persons” and “refugees” (along with family members and survivors) were included in the personal scope of regulation 1408/71.

Regulation 1408/71 applies only to state-run social security schemes. It does not apply to occupational or personal pension schemes. However, certain state supplementary schemes such as the British SERPS and the French ARRCO and AGIRC are now covered by it, following proceedings instigated by the respective national authorities. Application of this regulation is limited in the case of so-called “non-contributive” social security benefits, for example, income support schemes and disability allowances (which are not contribution-dependent). The regulation makes such benefits subject to a particular regime. In particular it helps satisfy residence conditions for acquiring entitlement to such benefits, but does not provide for such benefits to be paid in other states (article 10 f).

Article 10 of the Regulation requires retirement, disability and survivors' pensions to be payable to beneficiaries resident in another Member State on the same basis and at the same rate as they would be payable in the beneficiary's home state or the state under whose legislation the entitlement arose. This means, for instance, that a pensioner retiring to Spain is be entitled to a state retirement pension at the rate at which it would be payable in the EU country of origin. Similarly a British pensioner who had worked in France, but retired back to the UK, would be entitled to the French pension under the same conditions and at the same rate as in France.

Regulation 1408/71 provides that, with limited exceptions, an individual and employer are liable for the social security contributions of only a single Member State, generally the State, not of residence, but of employment. (Equally, provided that their earnings are above the national contribution threshold, workers have the right to pay contributions to at least one Member State's scheme to ensure the continuity of their contribution record.) Thus a German citizen who goes to work in the Netherlands will have to pay Dutch, not German, social security contributions. Similarly a British resident of Northern Ireland who crosses the border each day to work in the Irish Republic will pay Irish social security contributions and vice versa.

One exception is where an employee is posted (or self-employed person chooses) to work in another Member State for up to 12 months. (This may be extended for up to a further 12 months or longer, but the exception does not apply if the original intention was for a secondment of longer than 12 months.) A second exception is where the social security authorities of the two states concerned accept, where this is in the seconded worker's interest, that the worker remain subject to the legislation of the home state. (A worker may, however, choose voluntarily to contribute additionally to the long term pension arrangements of a Member State to which he is not subject, provided that that state's legislation permits it.)

For short-term benefits, e.g. sickness benefits, including medical treatment, and unemployment benefit, contribution or equivalent periods completed under the legislation of any Member State are aggregated to determine whether the individual satisfies the contribution conditions of the state where the claim is made. However, this occurs only if the claimant has worked in the state concerned. The benefit is then paid only by the State in which the event arose, normally the state of last employment.

For long term benefits, including retirement pensions and widow's allowances, Regulation 1408/71 applies the principles of aggregation and of apportionment. Under these principles, the social security institutions of every Member State in which the worker has worked for at least a year are required to aggregate the contributions or equivalent periods paid under the legislation of all Member States to which the worker has been subject. This procedure applies also when the period, even though under one year, is in itself sufficient to give entitlement to a benefit as defined by the national legislation. Member States then calculate the notional pension amount that would be payable under their legislation, if all those periods had been completed under their own legislation. Each state's scheme then pays its share of the latter amount, proportionally to the period of service under its own legislation. If, however, the amount that would be payable under its own national provisions without recourse to aggregation and apportionment is higher than the amount determined under the aggregation and apportionment provisions, the pensioner is entitled to the higher national entitlement from that state.

The aggregation and apportionment principle enables those who work for limited periods in a state to build up pension entitlement there during those periods and so become entitled to pensions under its legislation, even though they may not have participated in its social security scheme long enough to acquire title under that state’s legislation alone.

Directive 98/49 and Occupational Pensions

The equivalent provision to regulation 1408/71 for supplementary pensions (occupational, personal and stakeholder pensions or their foreign equivalents) is Council Directive 98/49/EC. Its application is, however, far more limited.

The Directive requires vested pension rights to be preserved when a scheme member moves to another Member State on the same basis as would apply if the member moved within the state where the rights were acquired. The same applies for rights of the member's widow, widower and dependants. The directive does not impose any rules as to the length of the vestment period. For example, as German pension rights do not vest until ten years’ service, persons belonging to a German pension scheme for nine years would have no rights after nine years' pensionable service in Germany, regardless of whether they remained in Germany or moved to another Member State.

The Directive requires all supplementary scheme benefits payable to scheme members, their family and survivors to be paid if they are resident in another state. This covers a pensioner who retires to Spain or a British worker in the Netherlands who returns home.

The Directive permits posted workers who (under Regulation 1408/71) are subject to the social security regime of their home state while employed in another state to remain a member of the home state supplementary pension scheme. Tax rules permit workers temporarily posted by their employer to another state to contribute to an occupational pension scheme for certain additional periods during which they are not subject to UK social security legislation. However, if their earnings are not taxable under UK legislation, they may lose the tax reliefs available on pension scheme contributions.

In addition, the Directive requires pension scheme administrators regularly to provide information to their members about their benefit rights if they move to another Member State.

5. Links and References

European Commission (1.9.1999 or later): The Community Provisions on Social Security – your rights when moving within the European Union. ISBN 92-828-8296-9
European Commission (latest version): Your Social Security Rights when moving within the European Union – a Practical Guide /soc-prot/schemes/guide

Eurocadres (1998) European Mobility –Guarantees for Supplementary Pensions.


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