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social security Federal Court rules foreigners abroad not entitled to work reintegration benefits

factory worker

The decision overturns an administrative court decision arguing that restricting disability benefits for foreigners contradicted the Free Movement of Persons Act with the EU.

(© Keystone / Eq Images / Moritz Hager)

The Federal Court has ruled that foreigners who worked in Switzerland but are currently living abroad are not entitled to work reintegration measures, overturning a decision by the Federal Administrative Court.

The ruling, published on Wednesday, reaffirms the prerogative of individual states party to the Free Movement of Persons Act with the European Union concerning social security benefits, including under which conditions disability benefits are granted.

The case concerns a Portuguese man who had worked in Switzerland for around 20 years and received partial disability benefits starting in 2000. He returned to Portugal four years later.

Following a revision to the social security law in 2014, the man stopped receiving disability insurance. The disability benefits office subsequently rejected requests from the man for work reintegration support such as training and job placement guidance, arguing that they were reserved for people who were receiving disability benefits.

This decision was overturned by the Federal Administrative Court in September last year, which argued that it disproportionately affected foreigners who often return to their home countries after receiving disability benefits. As such, it ran counter to the purpose of the Free Movement of Persons Act with the EU.

However, the disability office appealed the decision to the Federal Court, which in the ruling on Wednesday said that the same regulation also applies to Swiss nationals who reside abroad and are no longer subject to disability insurance payments.

Such reintegration support is also difficult – if not impossible – to provide to those living abroad, the Court said.


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