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News > Press Releases 2012 > Statement regarding a statutory duty to perform community service, challenged at the Constitutional Court

Statement regarding a statutory duty to perform community service, challenged at the Constitutional Court

12. 12. 2012

Constitutional Court deleted compulsory community service from the government reform package, agreeing with the ombudsman statement.

The Constitutional Court called on the ombudsman, pursuant to the provision of Sec. 48 (2) of Act No. 182/1993 Coll., on the Constitutional Court, to provide a statement regarding a section of a motion of a group of Members of the Lower House of the Parliament of the Czech Republic to repeal the provision of Act No. 435/2004 Coll., on Employment, and the provision of Act No. 111/2006 Coll., on Assistance in Material Need, regulating the performance of community service as a condition for claiming an unemployment benefit.

Using the statement of the ombdusman the Constitutional Court deleted compulsory community service from the government reform package.

 The ombudsman informed the Constitutional Court that he had received tens of complaints related to the issue in question. He acquainted the court in detail with several representative cases, which he believes adequately illustrate the present condition. The complaints of persons addressing the ombudsman in regard to the performance of community service indicate that it could breach the right to fair remuneration, adequate material security or even prohibition of forced labour guaranteed by the Charter. This fact cannot be changed by the declared purpose of community service (“one of the possibilities to maintain or develop work abilities and skills of persons who have not had a permanent employment for a long time and have objective or subjective problems finding a suitable employment”), which, moreover, is not actually fulfilled in practice.

The common denominator of the complaints that the ombudsman is receiving from people is a disagreement with the new concept of community service as such, particularly since it is performed for free. The complainants state that they are not or have not been on any social benefits and, additionally, the performance of community service is a financial burden for them since they have to pay e.g. a fare to the place of work.  Furthermore, the complaints that the ombudsman has received show that the persons forced to perform community service are those that should be given extra care in the process of finding employment due to their health, age, care of a child or other serious reasons. Additionally, it needs to be noted that applicants often feel that their dignity is harmed if they are to perform e.g. cleaning jobs despite the fact that with their education they could perform more skilled work. 

The ombudsman general attitude to this form of community service is negative (based on both the interpretation of the contested legal regulation and his current findings from investigating individual complaints).

In conclusion presented to the Constitutional Court, the ombudsman regarded as very disputable in particular the effort of the state, instead of consistently checking persons in respect of whom a suspicion of long-term avoidance of work and abuse of the social security system exists, to create a “preventive” system, which, however, can affect (and does affect, based on my experience) persons whose only problem on the labour market is age or parenthood. A big problem is also breach of the insurance principle, which the system of unemployment benefits is built on, since the state actually forces duly insured persons to “work off” the relevant insurance benefit if an insurance claim occurs (a loss of employment).

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