Ruling against council could set precedent

Court rules that job centre didn’t do enough for client; meanwhile, councils are under-performing in their quest to go digital

A case involving a job centre in Copenhagen failing in their duties is poised to become a benchmark for future instances after a court ruled in favour of a woman who sued the council for a lack of help.

The court found that the job centre did not do enough to get Ingelise Alma Pedersen, a 63-year-old teacher, back to work after she had a knee operation six years ago.

The court found that Pedersen was never given a work-ability test that could evaluate her work capacities and the council admitted that the planned test was never administered.

“The person themselves is responsible for making an effort to get back to work, but the council must also make an effort to help those on sick leave to get back on the job market. And they must be able to document it as well,” Søren Kjær Jensen, the lawyer who led the case for the teacher’s association BUPL, told Politiken newspaper.

The council was ordered to pay 500,000 kroner in compensation to Pedersen after they stopped paying her sick leave benefits three years ago and she was forced to live off her meagre pension.

The ruling, which the council has appealed, could catalyse a number of similar cases to be filed against councils throughout Denmark, according to Jensen.

“It’s the first ruling of its kind. The council has been ordered to pay an amount that is roughly equal to what Pedersen would have earned had the council helped her into a flex-job or the like,” Jensen told Politiken.

The councils, on the other hand, have their fingers crossed in regards to their appeal.

“I really hope that we win the case so that it does not set precedence because it can have far-reaching consequences. A defeat for us in the high courts will undoubtedly inspire many people,” Bodil Vendel, the head of the job centre on Baldersgade in Nørrebro, told Politiken.

The issue comes in the wake of the councils’ problems surrounding the digitalisation of their communication with the public.

Despite political goals that stipulate that by 2015, 80 percent of all communication between citizens and the councils will be digital, most communication still occurs via the post, in person or though the telephone.

In the first half of 2012, there were 99,000 digital self-service transactions, compared to 68,000 for the same period the year before, a feeble increase far below expectations.

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