Grounds for paying communicable disease allowance will not be changed
In recent weeks, there has been discussion about whether a full communicable disease allowance should be paid to people who may have been exposed to coronavirus because of their own actions. This type of situation may occur, for example, when people travel to countries where the coronavirus situation is worse than in Finland or when people attend public events.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health states that the grounds for paying communicable disease allowance will not be changed. The Ministry examined the matter, and it also requested an external legal assessment of the possibility and need to amend the regulation on communicable disease allowance from the constitutional perspective.
Under the Communicable Diseases Act, people who are ordered to stay away from their gainful employment or ordered into isolation or quarantine to prevent the spread of communicable diseases are entitled to receive communicable disease allowance as compensation for the loss of income.
The same applies to people who have custody of children under the age of 16 if the children have been ordered to stay at home for the above-mentioned reason and the people with custody of the children are therefore prevented from working. If there is no loss of income (remote work is possible, for example), people are not entitled to receive communicable disease allowance.
Unlike any other daily allowance benefits under the Health Insurance Act, communicable disease allowance provides full compensation for the loss of income. The reason for providing full compensation is that an order issued by the authorities to stay away from work or to remain in quarantine or isolation significantly interferes with people’s fundamental rights and their possibility to earn income through gainful employment.
Placing people under quarantine means significantly restricting their everyday lives and fundamental rights because those in quarantine are not, as a rule, allowed to leave their homes.
Full compensation is also important to make those exposed to the virus stay away from work or remain in quarantine or isolation to protect the rest of the population. The communicable disease allowance applies not only to the current coronavirus epidemic but also to other generally hazardous communicable diseases.
Decreasing the level of communicable disease allowance would require making several changes of principle to legislation. Decreasing this level on account of people’s own actions would be problematic for a number of reasons.
It would be challenging to define precisely in the legislation, for example, the implications of travelling abroad, because there is a wide range of situations that would need to be covered and different recommendations change as the epidemic progresses. In addition, the measures to assess the seriousness of people’s own actions and decrease the level of allowance on the basis of this assessment would conflict with the regulation on non-discrimination and on the prohibition of discrimination.
The amount of other health-based benefits, for example sickness allowance, is not determined on the basis of whether people’s own actions have contributed to the right to receive benefits. It is always open to some interpretation whether people’s own conduct has caused risks to their health.
To ensure the legal protection of people and to protect society, it is vitally important that orders to remain in quarantine or isolation are issued consistently to people in situations under the Communicable Diseases Act and in the manner laid down in the Act. Both the obligations and the rights, such as daily allowance, laid down in the Communicable Diseases Act apply to people who are ordered to remain in quarantine. Decisions under the Communicable Diseases Act are always made on medical grounds.
Liisa Siika-aho, Director of the Benefits Unit, Department for Insurance and Social Security, tel. +358 29 516 3085, [email protected]
Saila Ruuth, State Secretary, tel. +358 29 516 3391, [email protected]