What will the amendments to the Law on financial support for families with children bring: it could have been better

The most important positive change to the Law on financial Support for families with children is the one regarding the legal rights of mothers of children with disabilities. However, self-employed, unemployed and economically inactive mothers remain unprotected by law.

In early March 2021, the Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography initiated the long-awaited public debate on the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on financial support for families with children. The Draft Law brought positive changes regarding the legal rights of mothers of children with disabilities, introduced penalties for institutions, managers and executors who make omissions in their work, and implemented changes stemming from the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Serbia issued in December 2020.

However, as representatives of the “Moms Rule” the association pointed out, the draft law didn’t include any changes concerning mothers with less than 18 months of continuous service, nothing changed for mothers entrepreneurs, there is no guaranteed minimum wage during child care, no changes have been entered regarding the status of women who have to take medical leave in order to maintain a difficult pregnancy, nor concerning women who earn more than three average salaries and there is no support for mothers who have given birth to more than four children.

No compensation for those to whom the Law has applied so far

Tatjana Macura, founder of the “Moms Rule” association, commented the above listed changes to the Law for Mašina, stating that all of them are important:

“From our standpoint – and, I dare say, from the point of view of the general public as well – the most important amendment is the one that refers to mothers who gave birth to children with disabilities. This amendment is important not only from an ethical point of view, but also because the previous provision was unequivocally unconstitutional even at the moment when the parliamentary majority adopted the Law. It was inadmissible from the start for mothers to have to choose between the benefits to which they are entitled to and the benefits to which their children have a right to. This has now been changed, but, unfortunately, due to a clash between the Constitutional Court and the Serbian Government, it will not be possible for those to whom the Law has referred so far to get compensation.”

Referring to all other categories of women affected by the Law, whose status the abovementioned amendments didn’t cover, state representatives explained that the state budget doesn’t suffice for extensive corrections, emphasizes Tatjana Macura, adding:

“We certainly won’t give up the fight and we will focus on “invisible workers”, entrepreneurs, others with higher earnings, mothers of more than four children and all the groups that we’ve detected in the 3 years we have dealt with this Act.”

Unemployed and economically inactive mothers remain unprotected by law

Representatives of the “Moms Rule” association ask how will the period of child care leave, during which “mothers are entitled to meagre amounts spanning from literally a few to few hundred euros” be regulated in the future.

This especially refers to women farmers (there are about seventy of them in Serbia) and mothers who were not entitled to compensation (in the amount of a minimum wage) during maternity leave, i.e. until their new born is three months old.

According to “Moms Rule”, the state determined the maximal compensation, “but it elegantly avoided to prescribe the minimum amount, below which it is not possible to go.”

Therefore “Moms Rule” draws public attention to the fact that this is at the same time the biggest problem with the law’s application, especially given the fact that more than a third of mothers in Serbia are unemployed or economically inactive.

In addition, the proposed changes recognize a particular status of mothers who have given birth to five children, but only in the case that one of the children died soon after birth and the mother did not claim her legal rights for that child. All other families with more than four children are left unrecognized by this law, states the analysis conducted by the association “Mothers Rule”.

The “Moms Rule” association announced that they will react to this provision by proposing further amendments and insisting on more profound changes to the law.

Independent artists: we hope that the competent Ministry will recognize our proposals

As we previously reported, until the introduction of the new Law on Financial Support for Families with Children, everything was relatively clear for independent artists – during maternity leave, the competent association would “freeze” their status while their service continued, and the Republic fund of health insurance supplied for maternity leave compensation. Although the amount in question was minimal, in accordance with the City of Belgrade paying minimal contributions to artists, the income was at least secure and regular. This de facto meant that the status of an independent artist provided artists with all labour rights prescribed by the Labour Law, while the health care system treated them as employed persons.

In the comments the Association of Fine Artists of Serbia (ULUS) officially sent to the competent Ministries on the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on financial support for families with children it is explained that an independent artist, according to the Law on Culture, Article 58, is a natural person who produces works belonging to the field of artistic activity or performs works of art and authored works in the field of artistic activity. She has no employer in legal terms. The National employment service’s register recognizes her as an employee and therefore she cannot exercise any rights that arise from the status of unemployed persons, such as, for example, benefits for transportation for the unemployed.

Based on the of the Article 67 of the Law on culture, the representative association keeps records of independent artists among their members and issues necessary certificates and other documents required for exercising employment rights: the right to sick pay, the right to old-age pension based on artistic service, pension and disability contributions and health insurance. However, the representative association isn’t the artists’ “employer”. As representatives of ULUS further explain, artists’ pension, disability and health care contributions are covered by the local self-government (according to the Law on mandatory social security insurance contributions). Hence, an independent artist is not an entrepreneur, either, because she is not registered in the Business registers agency and doesn’t have a personal identification number.

Therefore, ULUS and other representative associations and organizations, such as the International Association of Art Critics, Section Serbia – AICA, Stanica – Service for contemporary dance, Serbian Literary Society, as well as the Association Independent Cultural Scene of Serbia (NKSS) are demanding for the independent artists, but also independent cultural experts, to be legally recognized as employees and to be given the right to employee compensation.

Isidora Ilić, artist and member of the research team of the social department of ULUS, commented on the current public debate for Mašina on the occasion of the turmoil that affected many artists, including herself:

“As for many other categories, the current Law on financial support for families with children is unfavourable for independent artists. We hope that the competent ministry will recognize our proposals and take necessary steps for independent artists to exercise their social rights.”

As Mario Reljanović, a research associate at the Institute of Comparative Law in Belgrade, explains, independent actors in culture, such as independent artists and an independent expert in culture, are recognized exclusively by the Law on culture.

“The Labour Law does not recognize self-employed workers. More precisely, in the legal system of Serbia, the self-employed are equalized with entrepreneurs and their status is regulated by the Companies act, which is an extremely deficient solution. However, farmers, cultural workers, sports workers and freelancers are also self-employed.”

Reljanović therefore believes that the employment status of self-employed workers – including cultural workers – should first be defined in the Labour Law itself, by determining which labour rights the self-employed should have and how can they claim them. Then, in accordance with such solutions, the Law on culture would be adjusted, as well as the laws that regulate social insurance, as well as social protection – among these regulations is the Law on Financial Support for Families with children.

The association “Moms are the law” agrees with the view that independent artists experienced a negative effects of the application of the Law which is “a consequence of the fact that artists’ status is poorly regulated by other laws – Law on culture, Law on mandatory social security insurance contributions, Labour law, Law on Personal Income Tax”.

This association, which has for years been fighting for a dignified existence for mothers and for the rights that the Constitution guarantees, but new legal acts continue to chip away , provided full support to independent artists and included their request to the set of amendments sent to the office of Ratko Dmitrović, Minister of Family Welfare and Demography.

Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić


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