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Sick pay switch may leave 17,000 penniless

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11:52 CET+01:00
Around 17,000 people set to lose their sickness benefits at the end of the year may be left with empty pockets as Sweden's unemployment insurance funds (a-kassa) struggle to keep up with a backlog of cases during the transition.

Under the terms of new rules coming into effect on January 1st, people who have received sick leave benefits for 550 days and those whose sickness compensation has expired will be removed from the insurance system, Sveriges Radio reports.

Instead they will fall under the remit of the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen), which will decide on appropriate training programmes to help people re-enter the workforce.

But with new regulations for the payment of unemployment benefits still somewhat unclear, and as current recipients of sickness benefits struggle to get their papers in order, there is a risk that many unemployed people will receive no money at all for a period of several weeks.

Labour market minster Sven Otto Littorin conceded that the time frame was tight and said he understood people's concern over delays in the payment of benefits.

"We are currently working intensively with the Swedish Unemployment Insurance Board and the employment insurance funds to ensure that everybody gets the right payment at the right time," he told news agency TT.

From the perspective of the unemployment insurance funds, the problem lies in the lack of any formal guidelines, as they await parliamentary approval for the government's proposal this Wednesday.

"They of course want a government and parliamentary decision before they get going, but we have talked to the unemployment insurance funds about what this is going to look like, so they will know in good time," he said.

Pressed on whether a time period of just a few weeks really qualified as being "in good time", Littorin admitted that it was "certainly tight".

"But the calculations template will lighten the burden quite a lot since it will be considerably easier for the unemployment insurance funds to calculate," said Littorin.

The minister was unable to elaborate on the precise construction of the calculations template, as it was not yet complete. But it will be founded on the principle that the unemployment insurance funds will not need to go back and check on a candidate's previous pay or employment.

But anybody with a clearly income-related payment will continue to be paid on that basis, said Littorin.

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