Did you know that if you fall ill while studying, you are entitled to a sickness allowance? The sickness allowance is a benefit designed to secure your income when you are unable to study full-time due to illness.
However, very few students are aware of the fact that they are entitled to sickness allowance. It is difficult to get information on the subject and Kela’s (The Social Insurance Institution of Finland) guidelines may seem complicated. As consequence, many students entitled to the sickness allowance are not able to claim the benefit.
The situation is not made any easier by the fact that in order to be eligible to receive sickness allowance, students are required to be completely unfit for work. Students claiming sickness allowance usually suffer from depression or another mental health disorder, which as such is so burdensome that Kela’s guidelines can be overwhelmingly difficult to interpret. Moreover, the students must remember themselves to request a medical certificate to qualify for sick leave, which is something that many young adults do not know how to do, or do not realise that they should.
It is not financially sensible for a student to claim sickness allowance for less than two months of sick leave, as the allowance will cancel the student’s study grant in full. This is the reason why the periods of sick leave taken by students are, as a rule, long. On the other hand, based on the more familiar medical certificate A, you can take sick leave for a maximum of about two months (60 working days, Monday to Saturday are counted as working days), but for a longer sick leave, a medical certificate B is required. According to the Current Care Guidelines, “it is appropriate for a student receiving student financial aid to claim sickness allowance if the incapacity for work lasts for more than 2 months.”
The situation is unreasonable for a student applying for sick leave and claiming sickness allowance. One should simultaneously be so unwell as to qualify for two months or more of sick leave at a time, but well enough to be able to claim the allowance. Students may study a little, 3 credits per month at a maximum, while on sick leave and receiving sickness allowance. Again, the timeframe specified by Kela is a poor match for a student’s daily life, as academic semesters, periods and course durations set the pace for it. Furthermore, students are themselves responsible for ensuring that the limit of 3 credits per month is not exceeded.
Remember this when claiming sickness allowance:
- Obtain a sick leave certificate, for example through the FSHS, and fill in the sickness allowance application on Kela’s website as soon as possible, no later than 2 months after becoming ill.
- When a sickness allowance is paid to you, you may study about 3 credits per month.
- If the sick leave is extended, you do not need to fill in the application again. All you have to do is submit a medical certificate to Kela. If the sick leave periods are not continuous, but days or weeks apart, a new application is required.
- Please note that you cannot receive student financial aid and sickness allowance at the same time. Remember to keep your sick leave certificates, as you may need them to apply for student loan compensation or additional months of student financial aid.
The amount of sickness allowance payable to a low-income student is paid at the minimum rate of €29.67 per working day (another ambiguous term), which, calculated quickly, is more than three times the amount of study grant per month.
So, in principle, the system includes the possibility to study while on sick leave, but in practice, it does not help students who are momentarily seriously overburdened. Dear student, if you find it difficult to get help, you are not to blame.
Tiina Pajukari & Suvituuli Lundmark
Members of the Board