Compromise on citizen income: no problem for Karlsruhe

The waiver of the partially sanction-free period of trust in the case of citizen income is compatible with the requirements of the Federal Constitutional Court.

Minister of Labor Heil during a press visit.

Minister of Labor Heil during a visit to the job center in Berlin-Lichtenberg Photo: Christian Spicker/imago

FREIBURG taz | First of all: The so-called trust period was a socio-political decision of the traffic light coalition, not a specification from Karlsruhe. So when it comes to Hart IV sanctions, two types of breaches of duty must always be distinguished. In the event of a violation of reporting obligations, the beneficiary misses an appointment at the job center. In practice, this is around 75 percent of cases. The public discussion but mostly focuses on the violation of duties to cooperate, because the sanctions are more drastic here. An obligation to cooperate is, for example, taking up reasonable work, training or further education.

Until 2019, if you failed to register, unemployment benefit 2 was reduced by 10 percent. In the event of a breach of a duty to cooperate, the sanctions were staggered. The benefit was reduced by 30 percent the first time, by 60 percent the second time, and then the benefit was completely eliminated. The sanction was valid for three months.

There was criticism of that. The state would always have to ensure the decent subsistence level, which is why a reduction in these benefits is not possible even in the event of a breach of duty.

However, the Federal Constitutional Court saw things differently in November 2019. The state could certainly require those in need of help to help overcome their need for help. According to the judges, corresponding activities could also be enforced with sanctions. However, the examination of proportionality is particularly strict here because it is about interference with the subsistence level.

3 defaults

From this led the Federal Constitutional Court three requirements for the legislature which must also be taken into account when it comes to basic income: Firstly, reducing benefits by 60 percent or eliminating them altogether is not permitted unless research results prove it is necessary (which has not been the case to date). Secondly, there must be exceptions for cases of hardship (e.g. mentally ill) when the benefit is reduced by 30 percent. And thirdly, the money must be paid back immediately if the unemployed person still fulfills the obligation or provides credible assurances that they are willing to do so.

Karlsruhe did not ask the Bundestag to change the law by a certain date. Rather, the Federal Constitutional Court made its specifications a legal transitional regulation with immediate effect. This transitional arrangement was in effect until July 1, 2022.

Since then, a one-year moratorium has been in effect, which the Bundestag decided on sanctions for violating the duty to cooperate. Sanctions are possible for failure to report, but only after the second violation.

From January 1, sanctions for violating the duty to cooperate were again included in the traffic light concept, but only after a “trust period” of six months. During these six months, there should only be a reduction in benefits of 10 percent in the event of repeated failure to report.

At the instigation of the Union, however, this period of trust has now been deleted in the compromise between Ampel and CDU/CSU. In the event of violations of the duty to cooperate, there should now be sanctions from the first day of receiving citizen money, albeit staggered: for the first violation, a 10 percent reduction for one month, for the second violation, a 20 percent reduction for two months, and for further violations, a 30 percent reduction for three months.

So there shouldn’t be any problems with Karlsruhe with this compromise, since the sanctions are a maximum of 30 percent and they end after the obligation has been fulfilled and there is also a hardship regulation.

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