Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund

20.02.2024

Who pays the hospital bills?

LaWi

Fair Mobility

By Anna Debreczeni

Physical work can be dangerous too.

Within the European Union the construction, transportation and storage and manufacturing sectors together accounted for around half of fatal accidents at work and around 40 percent of non-fatal accidents in 2021.

Construction is particularly dangerous: more than one fifth of all fatal accidents at work in the EU took place within this sector, according to Eurostat.

It is not enough to trust the employer when it comes to social security. If a worker suffers an accident, and wasn’t registered for social insurance, things can get rough. Even with the best intentions, there can be a certain point, when the organisations that help to protect workers’ rights, simply run out of tools and resources.

Expensive bill

Milos (this is not his original name) is a 45 years old Serbian worker employed by a Croatian comany, that sent him to Germany to work at a construction site.

Unfortunately, he had a work accident there, fell from 3 meters and got hospitalized in Germany with several rib fractures and damaged organs. He also got a hospital bill of EUR 5500.

Long bureaucracy

Soon it turned out, that his Croatian employer did not register him in Croatia for social insurance, „due to the long bureaucracy in the Republic of Croatia", as Šejla Vojić, advisor at Fair Mobility in Stuttgart, put it. She helped Milos in the first place, when he contacted Fair Mobility for help.

Furthermore, Milos’s Croation employer went bankrupt in the meantime, so it is not able to register retroactively Milos and pay his insurance costs.

To make the picture even more complex, Milos’s employer is still active company in Croatia, according to company registers. „It's possible that the employer misrepresented the situation; perhaps they are unwilling to cover expenses or lack the necessary funds”,  reacted Šejla Vojić. She will file a complaint against the Croatian company too. However, until now, no significant developments have occurred.

Not responsible

She also contacted the Croatian Labour Inspectorate, but no success. They stated that they are not responsible in this case, because the employee did not work in Croatia, as he is a Serbian citizen posted from Croatia.

Šejla also reached out to the Construction Trade Union in Croatia, that may be able to put pressure on the employer, and to the Croatian Trade Union Federation, that has also contacted European Labour Authority. Direct contact with the Savez samostalnih sindikata Hrvatske (SSSH) trade union federation was established when it was a partner in the Fair European Labour Mobility project in the previous years and who are still in touch with the project.

Possible outcomes

„I believe it could be challenging for him if the employer becomes insolvent”, said Šejla. His work agreement ties him to the company, and while logically you could think that the Croatian insurance should cover him, proving this in court may be difficult.

Therefore it is not sure, whether it makes sense for him to file a suit for a so-called declaratory judgement in Croatia, finding that he had an employment relationship, because the company is insolvent. It remains a question, whether there is any estate of the company from which the costs can be paid at all. „The process also takes a few months and the bill increases every month”, she added.


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