President refuses to promulgate law to hike family benefits

President Alar Karis.
President Alar Karis. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

President Alar Karis did not promulgate amendments to the Family Benefits Act and Family Law Act, which the Riigikogu passed on December 7, because his office finds they violate rules of legislative drafting and are therefore unconstitutional.

"The law as passed by the Riigikogu includes legislative drafting faults the extent of which amounts to unconstitutionality," the president said.

The president finds the second sentence of section 2, subsection 1 of the act to amend the Family Benefit Act and the Family Law Act to lack legal clarity, which causes it to clash with section 13, subsection 2 of the Estonian Constitution, according to which the law protects everyone from arbitrary exercise of state power.

The amendment adds the following sentences to section 101, subsection 5 of the Family Law Act: "It is deemed possible to satisfy the needs of the child using all of the child benefit and half of the large family benefit divided equally between all children in the family. It is expected that the large family benefit is only considered when determining child support if paid for children of both parents." The presidential office concludes that the last sentence cannot be clearly interpreted.

The president finds that the Riigikogu must return to the bill and ensure its conformity with the Constitution.

Karis said there are other considerations for not promulgating the law. "The law that the Riigikogu has passed prescribes indexation of the large families benefit, which clearly separates it from child benefits that are not indexed. The single parent benefit is also not indexed. This begs the question of how to justify the decision to leave all families with fewer than three children unprotected from the risk of price advance, irrespective of their financial situation. In other words, it is unclear why the state's special care must also include this extra layer of inequality, in addition to benefits."

The president suggested that affected parents perceive selective indexation [of benefits] as a sharp injustice and that the law's explanatory memo should explain why families with one or two children cannot be treated more equally.

"I admit that we cannot expect from the Riigikogu detailed reasoning behind particular benefit sums or studies to confirm instruments have an effect on number of births. The Riigikogu has the right to test out measures that merely could serve priority goals. On the other hand, as president of the republic, I cannot endorse legislative drafting where no explanation is given and only the coalition agreement is referenced as an excuse," Karis said.

Ministry of Social Affairs: Family benefits to be paid in recent volume

The Ministry of Social Affairs said that this means social benefits sums will remain unchanged from January.

The child benefit for first and second child currently stands at €60 a month, rising to €100 for the third child. Families with three or more children also receive the large family benefit of €300, which grows to €400 from the seventh child. The single parent benefit is €19.18.

The amendment would see the large family benefit go from €300 to €650 for three to six children, and from €400 to €850 per month for families with seven or more children.

The Riigikogu passed the law on December 7, with the new benefits supposed to take effect from January 1, 2023.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Marcus Turovski

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