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Old 20.09.2012, 21:10
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Paid unemployment benefits being reclaimed by unemployment office

I am living a nightmare in Switzerland. ALK(ArbeitlosenKasse) Bern started paying me unemployment benefits from May, 2012.

Recently I received a letter from them saying that the had mistakenly counted my 6 months German work experience towards unemployment insurance contribution period (which they say is not applicable for unemployed non-EU's). Also, my total swiss unemployment contribution was of 14 months but because I couldn't provide ALK the work certificate for 6 of these 14 months, they have considered only 8 months as my total unemployment contribution. As a result my total Swiss contributions according to ALK is 8 months which falls short of required 12 months, and so, they have asked me to pay them back ALL of the unemployment benefits they have paid me so far.

Trouble is, I have alread spent more than half of the unemployment benefits I received either spent living or remitted to my home country for paying back loans. So even if I want, I donot have enough left to pay them back. They have given me option of paying through installments/mortgage but have not explained how this can work.

I was thinking of making an appeal against ALk's decision because I have made 14 months of legitimate Swiss unemployment insurance contributions and I have all 14 salary slips to show that the unemployment insurance was paid to Swiss governemnt. Just because I cannot convince one of my employers to issue me a 6 month work certificate, they just ignore my 6 months out of 14 months unemployment insurance contributions. I think this is completely unfair because what matters is that unemplyment insurance was paid anyways.

Now another issue is that ALK and BECO/SECO somehow work together and my new employer has applied for a new work permit with BECO/SECO. If I now make an appeal against ALK's decision, I suspect might be putting my new work permit in jeopardy. If I try to play safe, I can somehow pay them the money back but then I will become bankrupt and possibly will have to borrow money to survive until I start working again.

I am totally confused as to what to do. I will be really thankful to anyone who can give suggestions on how to deal with this situation. If someone has been through similar experience, please do share it.

I have until monday to make an appeal or pay them back.

Thanks
JM
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Old 20.09.2012, 21:42
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Re: Paid unemployment benefits being reclaimed by unemployment office

Have you spoken to your RAV adviser? Go to the RAV first thing tomorrow. Ask for an ermergency meeting with him, or his colleague, and show him the payment slips. The bad employer must give you the certificate of employment.
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Old 20.09.2012, 22:47
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Re: Paid unemployment benefits being reclaimed by unemployment office

The rules are very important here. If you worked over 12 months in Switzerland, you should be entitled. As you say, a dodgy employer can't stop you from getting what you are entitled to, but if someone doesn't sort out the paperwork, then you get into a very stressy situation.

Stay calm, sort it out with your RAV advisor in the morning. It's pretty clear that if you paid in for 14 months, you get the insurance money...

Copies of salary statements should get it started... did you also (politely) remind your ex-employer that they must send the statement of employment ?

The one thing you can rely upon here is that the rules are the rules. I totally doubt that the paperwork issue will have any influence on your work permit renewal. In fact, they may just prefer you stick around to earn your money

It sounds simply like you haven't been able to provide the right paperwork, and someone's reviewed everything and found the missing hole and thought 'oh, he must have been unemployed' - I'm sure the forms asked you to provide evidence (ie. work certificate)...

Good luck with finding a new job and getting back on your feet...
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Old 20.09.2012, 22:51
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Re: Paid unemployment benefits being reclaimed by unemployment office

How stressful for you. As advised, talk to your RAV advisor. Are you a member of an Union like Unia- in case you need further advice or support?
Bonne chance.
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Old 21.09.2012, 00:02
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Re: Paid unemployment benefits being reclaimed by unemployment office

@Odile, swisspea, sprinz

Thanks for your feedbacks. I am little bit tense, but I am sure I can get out of this mess.

Actually the employer who is not ready to give me certificate is a Swiss university and my 6 months work was part time( but almost regular every month ) as a student assistant. I donot know exactly but I think most Swiss universities have this policy that they don't issue work certificates to leaving students to prevent them from claiming unemployment. But still my 14 month experience includes 8 work experience at a company (after I stopped working at university).

I met an adviser personally at ALK in April and explained that university is not ready to issue a work certificate. This adviser told me that it doesn't matter even if its a university as Swiss law makes its obligatory for employers to issue this certificate regardless of any condition. The advisor told me to right her an email explaining the issue and that they will try to get certificate from university. I then wrote her email explaining that university is not issuing me the certificate I can only provide them with the salary slips received from university. In fact I even provided them official AHV yearly statements whcih clearly shows that I was employed at this university. In addition I provided them with work certificate from recent employer and certificate/salary slips from Germany. When ALK started paying me in May I thought they either convinced my university and obtain work certificate from them OR they considered my German work experience ( I had given up on Germany after I was convinced that they were not going to transfer my unemployment benefits to Switzerland ). ALK or BECO never told me on what basis I was being paid. Only think I remember is that on 1st payment slip they mentioned 260 days entitlement to unemployment benefits which meant that in addition to 8 month recent work experience, they considered either my 6 month German work experience or my 6 month Swiss university work experience.

Its only now that I understand that they had counted my German work experience(which they say is not applicable anymore) and not my part time work at university. As ALK still does't have any certificate from university they dont consider that work experience although on salary slips from university all deductions are made towards AHV/ALV, unemployment insurance etc.

Point is my unemployment insurance was paid for 14 months and its only this missing certificate which has created all this mess. I dont understand how a missing work certificate can nullify all salary slips and AHV statements

I will goto talk to my RAV advisor tomorrow. Lets say what he says. I have to try and talk to personnel at university to issue a basic certificate if not in RAV work certificate format, although its still unlikely they will issue me any certificate at all .

@Odile: I am not member of any Swiss support organisation. Can you point me to right place where I can get some specific advise or support ?

@Swisspea: I have a new job now and I am sure I will never have to go through this horrendous unemployment mess again.
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Old 21.09.2012, 06:52
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Re: Paid unemployment benefits being reclaimed by unemployment office

Do you have a AHV Number? You should since anyone who works here gets one.

Using this number, AHV/ALV can track all contributions and see that you where working and on salary. This alone should shield you from the total disaster (Demand of repayment).

Although I'd be not surprised that they will try to dodge the need to pay out the ALV with all they can. All social services in Switzerland became a pain in the *** disaster in recent years. Private insurers are much more reliable then official organizations, and that says something...

I had a pleasure of dealing with ALV about 11 years ago when I lost my job due to company close down after working in Switzerland non-stop for 10 years as employee. Signed up to the ALV, was pushed around for 2 months without payouts under some shady premises then they dropped a bomb on me saying that I will get nothing because I am listed as a co-owner of GmbH which was registered just 3 months prior to closure of my last employer.

Went to the lawyer and was told that this is a trick ALV use to deny payments, you cannot get ALV if you are in position to influence your own employment, the law did not specify any boundaries however and ALV started misusing it in a basic tone: If you have a entry in Swiss Commercial register -> you are out of luck. Does not matter if the company in question was ever active or you had anything to do with it except the entry.
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Old 21.09.2012, 08:11
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Re: Paid unemployment benefits being reclaimed by unemployment office

If the worst happens and it turns out you do have to pay it back, usually this will be agreed on terms not too onerous to you. They want the money back - if they demand it all, the chances are they won't get any (maybe you'll run away or go bankrupts, or whatever).

The only reason for the scary deadline is so they can be sure that you'll act ASAP.
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