Norway freezes all investigations into EEA-related benefits claims

The Norwegian state prosecutor has frozen all ongoing investigations into possible benefit fraud related to recipients who have spent time in other EEA countries.

Norway freezes all investigations into EEA-related benefits claims
Outgoing Norwegian Director of Public Prosecutions (Rigsadvokaten), Tor-Aksel Busch (L) in a 2012 file photo. Photo: AFP

Norway’s Labour and Welfare Administration, NAV, is embroiled in an ongoing controversy after it incorrectly interpreted EU rules on the area, resulting in people being wrongly convicted of benefit fraud.

READ ALSO: Explained: Norway’s NAV social security scandal in five minutes

On Monday, the authority admitted it had made comprehensive errors in its interpretations of sickness benefits, support for people who need medical treatment or other measures to help them get back to work (work assessment allowance or arbeidsavklaringspenger, AAP) and support for people who are unable to work due to a sick child’s care needs (care benefit or pleiepenger).

Resultantly, at least 48 people have been wrongly convicted of social security fraud after spending time in EEA countries while receiving the social security assistance, NTB reported.

Outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions (Rigsadvokaten), Tor-Aksel Busch, on Friday instructed police to halt all ongoing investgations of reports handed to NAV relating to extended stays in the EEA area, Rett24 reported.

“In our view, the situation is so uncertain legally that I don’t think it is justifiable to bring people to court based on complaints filed with NAV related to this issue,” Busch said to Rett24.

“This must be clarified, and we need a lot more material from the authority before making a qualified assessment of whether we agree with their assessment. So everything is now on standby,” he added.

The instruction was sent to all of Norway’s police districts.

Busch’s term as director of public prosecutions ends on Friday. He will be succeeded by Jørn Sigurd Maurud.


Norway plans to issue holiday pay to people furloughed and unemployed in 2020

Nav, Norway’s public welfare agency, is preparing to issue holiday pay on unemployment benefits before the summer, even though the scheme is yet to be adopted.

Norway plans to issue holiday pay to people furloughed and unemployed in 2020
Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

According to Norwegian employment law, employees have the right to holiday pay  amounting to 10.2 or 12 percent of annual salary from the previous year. Freelancers and independent contractors normally do not.

Under a recently-proposed scheme, people who are eligible will receive 10.2 percent of their unemployment benefits as holiday pay from Nav, the national agency which administers public welfare.

Earlier this year, the ‘green’ and ‘red’ parties on Norway’s left made demands for holiday pay on unemployment benefits for the unemployed and laid-off workers (permittert in Norwegian). Permittering refers to people laid off or furloughed or not working their full hours due to Covid-19 restrictions or their consequences.

The government agreed to part of those demands and presented proposals at the end of March. 

READ MORE: ‘Fellesferie’: What you need to know about holiday pay in Norway

Holiday pay on unemployment benefits is scheduled to be be reviewed again in parliament to smooth over some of the finer details of the proposal. But Nav plans to pay out the holiday before the summer and it should automatically enter your account if you are registered and eligible, the agency has said.

“Nav has initiated work on such a solution, so if it is adopted, it now looks like we will receive payment before the summer holidays,” Nav preparations manager Yngvar Åsholt told trade union news media FriFagbevegelse.

Many people will probably be entitled to holiday pay on unemployment benefits that they received in 2020.

The government’s proposal allows for:

  • Holiday pay on unemployment benefits, calculated at 10.2 percent of paid unemployment benefits during the calculation period.
  • The calculation for payment in 2021 is set for April-December 2020. Only people who received unemployment benefits during this period will be entitled to holiday pay.
  • Only those who were unemployed or laid off for more than eight weeks receive holiday pay.
  • A maximum of 25,000 kroner will be paid in holiday pay. If this limit had not been set, people who were out of work for the entire period could have received up to 33,000 kroner in holiday pay for the period April-December 2020. 
  • Persons who, as of June 8th, 2021, are entitled to four weeks holiday with unemployment benefits, will not receive holiday benefits.
  • Persons who have been laid off for 52 weeks on June 8th or later can both take four weeks holiday with unemployment benefits this summer and receive holiday pay benefits for unemployment benefits.