In an increasingly globalized world, it is not uncommon for workers to travel to different member states of the European Union (EU) in search of new job opportunities. Against this backdrop, it is common for workers to have provided services and, consequently, to have paid social security contributions in different EU member states.

Regulation (EC) 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems seeks to ensure that all of a worker’s contribution periods are recognized in any EU member state.

However, recognition of contribution periods in different EU member states is not automatic. For example, in order to apply for unemployment benefits, a worker must submit a U1 certificate for recognition of his/her contribution periods in all EU member states. Otherwise, if the worker becomes unemployed in Spain, the State Public Employment Service will only recognize his/her contribution periods in Spain.

Moreover, not only are workers required to evidence all of their contribution periods in the EU for the purposes of recognition of the period for which they are entitled to unemployment benefits, but a transfer to another member state may trigger the automatic loss of unemployment benefits even if the worker continues to be legally unemployed in the new country of residence.

In this respect, Regulation (EC) 883/2004 establishes the possibility of exporting unemployment benefits to another EU member state for a period of three months, which may be extended for another three months. However, the export of the unemployment benefit recognized in Spain is subject to fulfillment of strict requirements, namely:

  • The unemployed person must have registered as a jobseeker before leaving Spain and have remained available to the employment services for at least four weeks from when his/her unemployed status began.
  • The unemployed person must register as a jobseeker with the employment services of the member state to which he/she has relocated, submit to the control procedure organized, and meet the statutory requirements established in the new member state.

If these requirements are met, the unemployment benefit will continue to be paid by the Spanish State Public Employment Service during the period for which export of the unemployment benefit is authorized, i.e. three months extendible by another three months.

Therefore, in conclusion, it is worth reflecting on whether the EU rules on coordinating national social security systems actually contribute to the free movement of workers, one of the cornerstones of the European Union, or whether this freedom is compromised by the fact that the export of unemployment benefits is capped at six months. It should be borne in mind that, if an unemployed person has not found a new job by the end of this six-month period, they face forfeiting their entitlement to collect unemployment benefits.