Lt

On the right to receive a maternity allowance without completing, due to studies, the established insurance period

Case no 7/2015

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
IN THE NAME OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF PARAGRAPH 2 OF ARTICLE 16 (WORDING OF 9 MAY 2013) OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON SICKNESS AND MATERNITY SOCIAL INSURANCE AND OF ITEM 38.4 (WORDING OF 23 OCTOBER 2013) OF THE REGULATIONS ON SICKNESS AND MATERNITY SOCIAL INSURANCE ALLOWANCES, AS APPROVED BY THE RESOLUTION (NO 86) OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA OF 25 JANUARY 2001, WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

15 March 2016, no KT9-N6/2016
Vilnius

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Elvyra Baltutytė, Vytautas Greičius, Danutė Jočienė, Gediminas Mesonis, Vytas Milius, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, and Dainius Žalimas

The court reporter – Daiva Pitrėnaitė

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1 and 531 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, at the Court’s hearing, on 8 March 2016, considered, under written procedure, constitutional justice case no 7/2015 subsequent to the petition (no 1B-9/2015) of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (Lietuvos vyriausiasis administracinis teismas), the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether:

Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, insofar as it provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with the provision “motherhood […] shall be under the protection and care of the State” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 thereof, and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law;

Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, as approved by the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No 86) of 25 January 2001 on the approval of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, insofar as it provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with the provision “motherhood […] shall be under the protection and care of the State” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 thereof, and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

1. The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the petitioner, was considering an administrative case dealing with a dispute concerning the refusal to grant a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave. The applicant in the administrative case had not been granted a maternity allowance because she had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period established in Paragraph 1 of Article 16 of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance (hereinafter also referred to as the Law), whereas the exception provided for in Paragraph 2 of this article, whereby a maternity allowance could be granted without the completion of that period, had not been applied to her owing to the fact that, even though she did not complete the established period because of her studies at a school of higher education, she became employed and was covered by that insurance two months before graduation, rather than after receiving a document certifying the completion of studies.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, having held that such a legal regulation had created the preconditions for situations in which persons who were in the same legal situation and who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to their studies under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies found themselves in different legal situations from the perspective of the right to receive a maternity allowance, depending on when they became insured – before or after the receipt of a document certifying the completion of relevant education, suspended the consideration of the administrative case and applied to the Constitutional Court with the petition requesting an investigation into the constitutionality of Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law and of Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances (hereinafter also referred to as the Regulations), as approved by the government resolution (No 86) of 25 January 2001 on the approval of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances (hereinafter also referred to as the government resolution of 25 January 2001).

2. The petition of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania is substantiated by the following arguments.

2.1. According to Paragraph 1 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, a maternity allowance was granted and paid to persons who had completed a certain period of sickness and maternity social insurance. Paragraph 2 of this article provided for an exception: persons who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, established in Paragraph 1 of this article, were entitled to receive a maternity allowance in cases where they had not completed it due to their studies. However, under the legal regulation established in this paragraph, a maternity allowance was granted to persons who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to their studies in cases where they had become insured persons (had become employed) exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months after the completion of their studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies). Meanwhile, persons who had not completed the established insurance period due to their studies, who had become employed and had been covered by this insurance before graduation from a particular school were not entitled to a maternity allowance solely on the ground that they had become employed prior to the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies. Thus, persons who, at the end of their studies, sought to become employed as quickly as possible, to earn income for themselves and their families and, at the same time, to contribute to the accumulation of the funds of the budget of the State Social Insurance Fund were placed in a less favourable position than those who became employed after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months after the completion of studies.

2.2. In the opinion of the petitioner, by Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, the legislature sought to establish a certain advantage for young women enabling them to receive a maternity allowance in cases where they, before the beginning of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, established in Paragraph 1 of this article, precisely due to their studies under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies. However, the same norm of the Law denied the right of the same women to receive a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave where they had become employed and become insured before they received a document certifying the completion of particular education, but not within three months after the issuance of such a document. Therefore, according to the petitioner, such a legal regulation did not comply with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution, whereby family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood are under the protection and care of the state, nor did it comply with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

2.3. According to the impugned legal regulation, the right to freely choose an occupation and business was restricted to persons who sought to make use of the right to receive a maternity allowance in accordance with the exception set out in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, because they were not entitled to a maternity allowance when they became employed before receiving a document certifying the completion of their education. Therefore, the petitioner has doubts as to whether such a legal regulation violated the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution that everyone may freely choose a job or business.

II

1. In the course of the preparation of the case for the hearing of the Constitutional Court, written explanations were received from the representative of the Seimas, a party concerned, who was Algirdas Sysas, the Deputy Speaker of the Seimas, and the representatives of the Government, a party concerned, who were Alesia Rynkevič, the Deputy Head of the Law Division of the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania, and Vilma Vizbaraitė, the adviser at the Social Insurance Division of the Social Insurance and Pensions Department of the same ministry, in which it is maintained that the impugned legal regulation was not in conflict with the Constitution.

The positions of the representatives of the Seimas and the Government, the parties concerned, are substantiated by arguments that are virtually identical. They are as follows:

1.1. Benefits from the budget of the State Social Insurance Fund are received by persons who, during a period established in laws, have paid state social insurance contributions for the corresponding type of insurance. According to Paragraph 1 of Article 16 of the Law, a maternity allowance is granted to persons who have completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period of 12 months during the last 24 months.

However, according to Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, persons who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, established in the Law, were entitled to receive a maternity allowance in cases where they met the three conditions: 1) they were below the age of 26; 2) they had not completed the required insurance period due to their studies under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies; 3) they had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies.

Thus, the purpose of this provision of the Law was to ensure the right to a maternity allowance for persons who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, established in the Law, in cases where the said period had not been completed not due to any factors, but only because of a person’s activities the purpose of which was to acquire certain education, where the person had not participated in the state social insurance relations due to his/her direct engagement in academic activities, as well as when passing tests and examinations for the subjects provided for in the study programme that he/she had chosen. In other words, the impugned provision was aimed at ensuring social guarantees to those who had just become employed and who, because of important objective reasons (due to the fact that they had devoted all their time to their education or studies), had been unable to engage in work activities and, after graduation from a particular school, had been unable to complete the established sickness and maternity social insurance period.

1.2. The Constitution does not establish expressis verbis any grounds, conditions, terms, and amounts of state support to maternity. This, in accordance with the Constitution, is established by the legislature (which has wide discretion), by taking into account various social, demographic, and economic factors, inter alia, the material and financial possibilities of the state.

Taking into consideration the fact that, according to the constitutional principle of responsible governance, public funds must be used in a responsible and rational way, the legislature can regulate the relations of maternity support, inter alia, those of maternity social insurance, in such a way that regard is paid to the situation of the economy of this country and that the circle of recipients of state social insurance benefits is limited. In order to avoid a situation where insufficient funds are collected for the budget of the State Social Insurance Fund to fulfil the state obligations, the legislature has the right to regulate this area in such a way that persons receiving (higher) remuneration would contribute more to the formation of the budget the State Social Insurance Fund. Otherwise, the state would not be able to properly perform, inter alia, the duties assigned to it by Articles 38 and 39 of the Constitution.

Thus, the impugned provision sought a constitutionally significant objective – to form a sufficient budget of the State Social Insurance Fund in order to ensure that the state has the material possibilities to guarantee social security to those who need it. When persons who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period were included into the circle of persons entitled to receive a maternity allowance, which thus improved the social situation of the said persons (but only of those who met the conditions laid down by the legislature, i.e. only of those who became employed exclusively after graduation from a particular school), the objectives of state social insurance were ensured, and the aforementioned provision itself was not in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution.

1.3. Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution ensures the right of a person to freely choose whether to work (engage in business) or not to work. Under the impugned legal regulation, persons were allowed to choose to acquire corresponding education and, where they devoted all their time to education or studies, to have the guarantee to receive a maternity allowance without having completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period established in the Law; therefore, such a legal regulation should not be regarded as violating the constitutional human right freely to take up employment.

In the Constitution, persons are guaranteed not absolute rights, but only the fact that the state will not deny the corresponding rights. The fact that the persons who studied were also employed at the same time does not mean that they were prevented from completing the established sickness and maternity social insurance period. Thus, the impugned provision did not restrict the right of such persons to freely choose an occupation.

1.4. The legislature may impose additional (special) conditions for the implementation of the right to social assistance. Under the impugned legal regulation, the application of the principle of the redistribution of funds allocated for social assistance ensured both social justice and the collection of funds necessary for the payment of social insurance benefits; the said legal regulation neither discriminated against nor granted privileges to anyone. The impugned legal regulation was aimed at ensuring a better situation for learners and at not restricting, due to motherhood, the right to education, specified in Article 41 of the Constitution, as well as at fulfilling the duty, established in Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution, to take care and protect motherhood and fatherhood, and at balancing the interests of various social groups. Thus, such a legal regulation did not violate the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

2. In the explanations given by the representative of the Seimas, a party concerned, it is also noted that state support for maternity can be implemented not only through the legal relations of social insurance, but also by establishing another favourable legal regulation (for example, by paying child benefits, providing families with social assistance, providing more favourable working conditions for pregnant women and nursing mothers, etc.).

In addition, it is maintained in the explanations that, for the sake of legal clarity, legal certainty, and legal definiteness, the legal regulation must establish objective criteria and reference points from which persons face certain legal consequences. Such a legal regulation guarantees that a person will be certain about the moment of the occurrence of certain legal consequences and that it will be possible to assess them on the basis of objective and well-defined criteria. Therefore, the legal regulation impugned by the petitioner was not in conflict with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

3. In the explanations of the representatives of the Government, a party concerned, it is also noted that the impugned provision of the Law has been changed by amending the very principle of granting social insurance allowances without having completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period. The right of persons who have not completed the prescribed insurance period to receive social insurance benefits is no longer linked to the moment when a person becomes employed – it is linked to an insured event when it occurred within a certain period of time after the completion of studies (in the case of maternity, within 12 months). Thus, the legislature sought to further ensure the social guarantees of persons who graduated from the corresponding schools.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

1. In the constitutional justice case at issue, the Constitutional Court examines the constitutionality of Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law and Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations, insofar as they provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies).

2. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it is important to clarify some aspects of the development of the legal regulation governing the granting of a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave.

3. On 21 December 2000, the Seimas adopted the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, which came into force on 1 January 2001. This law established persons who were insured by sickness and maternity social insurance, as well as the conditions for the granting, calculation, and payment of allowances of this insurance.

3.1. Article 16 of the Law, titled “The Right to Receive a Maternity Allowance for the Duration of Pregnancy-and-Childbirth Leave”, prescribed:

1. The right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave shall apply to such women who have been insured in accordance with the procedure established in Paragraph 1 of Article 4 of this Law and who have been granted pregnancy-and-childbirth leave provided that, by the first day of the pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, they have completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period of not less than three months in the last 12 months or not less than six months in the last 24 months.

2. A maternity allowance shall be granted for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave on the basis of a certificate confirming pregnancy-and-childbirth leave issued in accordance with the Rules for Issuing Incapacity for Work and Pregnancy-and-Childbirth Leave Certificates, as approved by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Security and Labour.”

Thus, Paragraph 1 of Article 16 of the Law established the following conditions for the acquisition of the right to receive a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave: 1) the woman must be covered by compulsory sickness and maternity social insurance in accordance with Paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Law; 2) she must have gone on pregnancy-and-childbirth leave; 3) she must have completed the minimum established sickness and maternity social insurance period (i.e. she must have been insured by the said insurance for three months in the last 12 months or for at least six months in the last 24 months). Consequently, the right to receive a maternity allowance applied to insured women who had completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period established by the Law and who had gone on pregnancy-and-childbirth leave (upon the receipt of a leave certificate).

3.2. In this context, it needs to be mentioned that it is clear from the legal regulation established in Paragraph 1 of Article 3 and Paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Law that the compulsory sickness and maternity social insurance virtually covered persons receiving remuneration from work or professional activities (i.e. employed persons and/or those holding a certain position) for whom compulsory state social insurance contributions were paid in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on State Social Insurance.

3.3. It should be noted that neither Article 16 nor the other provisions of the Law provided for any exceptions for the granting of a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave to women who did not meet the conditions established in the Law, inter alia, who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period.

4. Article 16 of the Law has been amended and/or supplemented on more than one occasion, inter alia, by the laws passed by the Seimas on 4 December 2007, 18 December 2008, 22 December 2010, 9 May 2013, 9 December 2014, and 30 June 2015.

4.1. By Article 7 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law Amending and Supplementing Articles 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 181, 183, 19, 20, and 21 of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, which was passed on 4 December 2007 and came into force (apart from the established exception) on 1 January 2008, Article 16 (wording of 21 December 2000 with subsequent amendments) of the Law was supplemented, inter alia, with a new Paragraph 2.

4.1.1. Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law prescribed: “The right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave shall apply to such insured persons under 26 years of age where, by the beginning of the pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, they have not completed the period set in Paragraph 1 of this Article due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they received full-time education at duly registered schools of higher education, vocational schools, or schools of general education and where the interval between the completion of their studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies) and the moment when they became insured persons does not exceed three months.”

Thus, Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law established an exception to the condition (according to which a person must complete the established minimum period of sickness and maternity social insurance) for the right to receive a maternity allowance, which is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of this article: in certain cases, a maternity allowance could be granted for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave also to those insured persons who had gone on pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, but who had not been able to complete the required minimum period of sickness and maternity social insurance prior to the beginning of the leave.

It should be noted that the exception – the right to receive a maternity allowance without completing of the established sickness and maternity social insurance period – provided for in Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law, was available to insured persons who met the following conditions:

1) they were under the age of 26;

2) they did not complete the established minimum period of sickness and maternity social insurance due to the fact that, during the periods of time specified in the Law, they received full-time education at schools of higher education, vocational schools, or schools of general education;

3) they became insured persons within three months after the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies).

Consequently, under Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law, employed persons under the age of 26 years were entitled to receive a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave without completing the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they received full-time education at a particular school and in cases where they, having received a document certifying the completion of studies, became employed not later than within three months after the completion of studies. In other words, Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law established the maximum period of time for persons under 26 years within which they, after the completion of studies, had to become insured persons (to become employed) in order to receive a maternity allowance without completing the established insurance period.

4.1.2. It should be noted that it is clear from the travaux préparatoires of the Law Amending and Supplementing Articles 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 181, 183, 19, 20, and 21 of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance that Article 16 of the Law was supplemented with a new legal regulation because “the existing legislation does not provide for exceptions for insured persons who, for certain reasons (e.g. they previously studied […]), have not completed the required sickness and maternity social insurance period that gives the right to receive sickness, maternity, paternity, and maternity (paternity) social insurance allowances”, while the new legal regulation sought to “ensure social guarantees to insured persons who have not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period due to the fact that they studied […]”.

4.1.3. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should be noted that Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law did not directly stipulate whether maternity allowances were also granted to those insured persons under the age of 26 who had not completed the established insurance period due to the fact that they received full-time education at a particular school and who had become insured (employed) before graduation from a particular school (prior to the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies).

4.1.4. In this context, it needs to be mentioned that, in case law, Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law has been interpreted as meaning that, in the event that a person who complied with other conditions specified in the Law had become employed before the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies, this circumstance could not serve as grounds for not granting a maternity allowance under this provision of the Law. It is noted in case law that the opposite interpretation of the provision of this Law would be illogical and contrary to the general principles of justice and reasonableness, as it would create a situation where a person who has practically completed his/her studies, but has not received a diploma yet, if he/she became employed, would have lower social guarantees than a person who became an insured person (became employed) later, i.e. only when the latter person formally received a diploma – a document certifying the completion of studies (inter alia, the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania of 28 June 2010 in administrative case no A756-304/2010, its ruling of 15 July 2010 in administrative case no A502-777/2010, and its ruling of 27 May 2011 in administrative case no A146-1417/2011).

4.2. By Article 7 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law Amending and Supplementing Articles 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 15, 16, 18, 181, 183, 19, 20, 21, and 24 of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance and Supplementing the Law with Article 241, which was adopted on 9 May 2013 and came into force (apart from the established exceptions) on 1 July 2013, Article 16 of the Law was set out in its new wording.

4.2.1. Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, whose compliance with the Constitution is impugned by the petitioner to the specified extent, prescribed: “The right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave shall apply to such insured persons under 26 years of age where, by the beginning of the pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, they have not completed the period set in Paragraph 1 of this Article due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies and where they became insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months after the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies).”

Having compared the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law with that established in Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007 with subsequent amendment) of the same article, it should be noted that the legal regulation changed in the sense that it clearly stated that insured (working) persons under 26 years of age who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies were to be granted a maternity allowance in cases where they became insured persons (became employed) exclusively after graduation from a particular school and not later than within three months after graduation, i.e. exclusively after having received a document certifying the completion of studies.

4.2.2. It should be noted that it is clear from the travaux préparatoires of the aforementioned law, which amended, inter alia, Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007 with subsequent amendment) of Article 16 of the Law, that the said law was adopted, inter alia, “by taking into account the existing case law of administrative courts in applying the provisions of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance” and by seeking to “ensure the clearer […] implementation of the provisions of the law” in order to “avoid different interpretation of legal norms”.

This amendment sought to particularise the provision on the right to receive a maternity allowance in cases where a person had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, which was established in the Law and gave him/her the right to receive this benefit, in order that “the explicit formulation of the three conditions for the right to receive social security benefits […] would not create the preconditions for a different interpretation of legal norms”. Therefore, the beginning of the three-month period laid down in the said provision of the Law was to be calculated from the end of the studies according to a document proving it, i.e. the explicit third condition for receiving a maternity allowance without the completion of the established sickness and maternity social insurance period was “the fact that a person has become an insured person upon graduation from a particular school within three months from the completion of studies”.

From the intentions of the legislature, recorded in the travaux préparatoires to said law, in which it is stated that “the circle of persons who would be exempted should not be expanded”, it is also clear that the exception provided for in the Law applied “only to […] the specified insured persons in cases where they became insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular school”.

4.2.3. Thus, when interpreting the impugned Paragraph 2 of Paragraph 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, it should be held that, under the legal regulation established therein, persons under 26 years of age who were insured (employed) and who had not completed the prescribed sickness and maternity social insurance period because they learned during the specified periods of time could not be granted a maternity allowance in cases where they had become insured persons (had become employed) before graduation from a particular school (before the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies). Consequently, the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, compared with the one previously in force, reduced the circle of the recipients of maternity allowances paid for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave without the completion of the prescribed insurance period, after clearly stipulating that persons under 26 years of age who had become insured persons (had become employed) before the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies did not fall into the circle of recipients of maternity allowances.

4.3. By Article 2 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law (No IX-110) Amending Articles 8, 16, 181, and 19 of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, which was passed on 9 December 2014 and came into force (apart from the established exception) on 1 January 2015, Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law was amended.

4.3.1. Paragraph 2 (wording of 9 December 2014) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law prescribed: “The right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave shall apply to such insured persons under 26 years of age where, by the beginning of the pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, they have not completed the period set in Paragraph 1 of this Article due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies and where pregnancy-and-childbirth leave is granted within 12 months after the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies).”

Having compared the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 2 (wording of 9 December 2014) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law with that established in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, it is clear that the legal regulation changed in the sense that the granting of maternity allowances to insured (employed) persons under 26 years of age who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period because they learned during the specified periods of time became linked to the period within which such persons were granted pregnancy-and-childbirth leave.

4.3.2. It should be held that the third condition for the right to a maternity allowance without the completion of the established sickness and maternity social insurance period was changed by the legal regulation consolidated in Paragraph 2 (wording of 9 December 2014) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law: such an allowance was granted to insured (employed) persons under 26 years of age who had not completed the said period due to their studies provided that they had been granted pregnancy-and-childbirth leave within 12 months of the completion of their studies, irrespective of when (before or after the completion of their studies) they became insured persons (became employed). Thus, the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 (wording of 9 December 2014) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law from the aspect impugned by the petitioner changed substantially and the circle of the insured (employed) persons who were entitled to receive a maternity allowance without completing the established sickness and maternity social insurance period because they studied during the specified periods of time was expanded.

4.3.3. It should be mentioned that the travaux préparatoires of the law that amended, inter alia, Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law make it clear that the impugned legal regulation was changed also by taking into account the fact that the previously valid provision, according to which maternity allowances were granted to persons who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period established by the Law because they studied during the specified periods, was “socially unfair with regard to a certain circle of individuals”; thus, the aforementioned amendment by which persons who became insured before graduation from a particular school were included into the circle of persons who had the right to receive a maternity allowance without the completion of the prescribed sickness and maternity social insurance period was made in order to restore social justice and secure social guarantees for young people, thereby promoting their employment.

4.4. By Article 2 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law (No IX-110) Amending Articles 8, 16, 181, and 19 of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, which was passed on 30 June 2015 and came into force (apart from the established exception) on 1 September 2015, Paragraph 2 (wording of 9 December 2014) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law was set out in its new wording.

4.4.1. Paragraph 2 (wording of 30 June 2015) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law prescribes: “The right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave shall apply to such insured persons under 26 years of age where, by the beginning of the pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, they have not completed the period set in Paragraph 1 of this Article due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies and where pregnancy-and-childbirth leave is granted within 12 months after the completion of the general education programme, or the vocational training programme, or a programme of higher education study (according to a document validating the achievements in education and/or qualification). Doctor residents insured during the first year of medical residency shall be entitled to a maternity allowance for pregnancy-and-childbirth leave in cases where they have not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period set in Paragraph 1 of this Article due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies and/or studied in medical residency and where pregnancy-and-childbirth leave is granted within 12 months from the beginning of medical residency studies.”

Thus, Paragraph 2 (wording of 30 June 2015) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law was supplemented with the provision that the insured resident physicians who have not completed the sickness and maternity insurance period prescribed in the Law also have the right to receive a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave in the first year of medical residency, and the legal regulation established therein in the sense that insured (employed) persons under 26 years of age who have not completed the prescribed sickness and maternity social insurance period because they studied during the specified periods are granted a maternity allowance if pregnancy-and-childbirth leave is granted to them within 12 months of the completion of studies did not change.

4.4.2. It should be noted that the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 (wording of 30 June 2015) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law is not a matter for an investigation in the constitutional justice case at issue.

5. Summing up, from the aspect relevant in this constitutional justice case, the legal regulation established in Article 16 of the Law, which regulates the right of working persons to receive a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, it should be held that, having stipulated in Paragraph 1 of Article 16 of the Law that the insured (working) persons who have completed the prescribed sickness and maternity social insurance period have the right to receive a maternity allowance, an exception was (is) established in Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007 with subsequent amendments) of the same article, according to which the persons specified in the law had (have) the right to receive a maternity allowance without completing the prescribed insurance period.

The impugned Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law stipulated that insured (working) persons under 26 years of age who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies were granted a maternity allowance in cases where they had become insured persons (had become employed) exclusively after graduation from a particular school and not later than within three months after the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies). If insured (working) persons under 26 years of age had not completed the prescribed sickness and maternity social insurance period because they studied during the specified periods of time and had become insured (employed) before graduation from a particular school (prior to the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies), they would not have been granted a maternity allowance.

It should be noted that that the impugned legal regulation was in force from 1 July 2013 until 1 January 2015.

6. It has been mentioned that, in the constitutional justice case at issue, the Constitutional Court also examines the constitutionality of Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations, insofar as it provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies).

7. On 25 January 2001, the Government adopted the resolution (No 86) on the approval of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, which came into force on 1 February 2001. By means of the said resolution, invoking the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, the Government approved the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances. The Regulations govern the procedure for the granting and payment of social insurance allowances.

7.1. Persons entitled to a maternity allowance are specified in Item 38 of the Regulations. This item has been amended and/or supplemented on more than one occasion.

7.2. By Item 1.19 of the government resolution (No 43) of 16 January 2008 on amending the resolution (No 86) of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania of 25 January 2001 on the approval of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, the Regulations were supplemented with Item 38.4, which stipulated that the right to receive a maternity allowance applied to persons who, before the beginning of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, were under 26 years of age and who had not completed the prescribed sickness and maternity social insurance period due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they received full-time education at duly registered schools of higher education, vocational schools, or schools of general education in cases where the interval from the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies) until the moment when they became insured persons did not exceed three months.

Thus, Item 38.4 (wording of 16 January 2008) of the Regulations established a legal regulation analogous to that laid down in Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 December 2007) of Article 16 of the Law.

7.3. By Item 1.11 of the government resolution (No 966) of 23 October 2013 on amending the resolution (No 86) of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania of 25 January 2001 on the approval of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, Item 38.4 (wording of 13 April 2011) of the Regulations was amended.

Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations, which is impugned by the petitioner to the specified extent, stipulated that the right to receive a maternity allowance applied to persons who “are under 26 years of age before the beginning of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave where they have not completed the [prescribed] sickness and maternity social insurance period […] due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies and where they became insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months after the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies).

Thus, the impugned Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations established a legal regulation in substance analogous to that laid down in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, according to which insured (employed) persons under 26 years of age who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, which was prescribed in the Law, due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies were granted a maternity allowance in cases where they had become insured persons (had become employed) exclusively after graduation from a particular school and not later than within three months after the completion of studies, i.e. only after receiving a document certifying the completion of studies.

7.4. The impugned Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations has been amended by means of the government resolutions adopted on 30 July 2014, 28 January 2015, and 30 September 2015. It should be noted that in all these cases the legal regulation established in the Regulations was changed in the light of amendments to Article 16 of the Law. The currently in force Paragraph 38.4 (wording of 30 September 2015) of the Regulations contains a legal regulation analogous to that established in Paragraph 2 (wording of 30 June 2015) of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law.

II

1. In the constitutional justice case at issue, the petitioner impugns the compliance of the legal regulation by which maternity allowances were granted to working mothers who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period established in the Law with the provision “motherhood […] shall be under the protection and care of the State” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution, the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 thereof, and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

2. Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution prescribes: “Family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood shall be under the protection and care of the State.”

2.1. The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that this provision, as well as Paragraph 1 of Article 38 of the Constitution, consolidates the most general constitutional principles (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 28 September 2011 and 27 February 2012); these provisions express the obligation of the state to establish, by means of laws and other legal acts, such a legal regulation that would ensure that family, as well as motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood, should be fostered and protected as constitutional values in all ways possible (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 28 September 2011, 27 February 2012, and 4 June 2012).

2.2. The state protection and care guaranteed in Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution is implemented in various ways by creating a favourable environment for family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood as constitutional values (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 27 February 2012).

When interpreting the imperative (consolidated, inter alia, in Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution) whereby family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood are under the protection and care of the state, the Constitutional Court noted that, in the course of implementing the constitutional obligation of the state to create a favourable environment for family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood, various forms of the protection and support thereof may be developed. In this area, the legislature, taking account of various social, demographic, and economic factors, inter alia, the material and financial possibilities of the state, has broad discretion to choose concrete instruments of protection and support (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 27 February 2012 and 14 December 2012).

3. The constitutional obligation of the state to protect and care for family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood is also in certain aspects expressed, as a general principle, in other provisions of the Constitution, inter alia, in Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, which consolidates the guarantee of paid leave before and after childbirth to working mothers, as well as favourable working conditions and other concessions.

3.1. Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution establishes the guarantee of paid leave before and after childbirth for working mothers, by taking account of a special condition and need of healthcare of women for some time before and after childbirth and of the special relationship between a mother and her child for some time after childbirth. The purpose of this constitutional guarantee is to secure the protection of the physiological condition of a pregnant woman and a woman after childbirth, to secure the special relationship between a mother and her child during the first weeks of life of the child, by creating the possibility for a working woman to withdraw, for a reasonable time, from her work (professional) activities before and after childbirth (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 27 February 2012 and its decision of 5 July 2012). When account is taken of this constitutional purpose, paid leave before and after childbirth to working mothers is a specific constitutional institute of the protection of motherhood and childhood (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 27 February 2012).

3.2. The paid leave of a reasonable length of time before and after childbirth to working mothers guaranteed under Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution implies that the legislature, in regulating the implementation of the right to this leave and taking into consideration the constitutional purpose thereof, while paying regard to other norms and principles of the Constitution (inter alia, the constitutional imperatives of a state under the rule of law, justice, reasonableness, and the equality of rights), must establish, inter alia, the conditions for giving such leave, a reasonable (minimum and maximum) length of such leave, as well as such a legal regulation that would secure, at the time of this leave, the payment of benefits the amount of which would comply with the average remuneration received during a reasonable time prior to such leave (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 27 February 2012).

4. The constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law is inseparable from the principle of the equality of the rights of persons, which is consolidated in the Constitution; the latter principle requires that in law the main rights and duties be established equally to all (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 29 March 2012, 4 June 2012, and 24 May 2013). The said principle would be violated if certain persons or groups of such persons were treated in a different manner, even though there are not any differences of such a nature and to such an extent between the said groups of persons that would objectively justify their uneven treatment (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 6 February 2012, 27 February 2012, 4 June 2012, and 24 May 2013).

A violation of the constitutional principle of the equality of the rights of persons is, at the same time, a violation of the constitutional imperatives of justice and harmonious society; thus, such a violation is also a violation of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 6 February 2012, 14 December 2012, and 30 April 2013).

5. As mentioned above, in the constitutional justice case at issue, the petitioner also impugns the compliance of the legal regulation by which maternity allowances were granted to working mothers who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, established in the Law, with the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution.

6. The right of a person to freely choose an occupation or business is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has held that this provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution is a general norm (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 4 March 1999, 13 December 2004, and 4 November 2015), which means the opportunity of everyone at his/her discretion, i.e. deciding freely on this matter, to choose a certain occupation (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 10 July 1996, 13 December 2004, and 4 November 2015).

The constitutional freedom of each individual to choose an occupation or business implies the duty of the legislature to create the legal preconditions for implementing this freedom; when creating the said preconditions, the legislature is empowered to establish, by taking account of the nature of an occupation of business, the conditions of implementing the right to freely choose an occupation or business; while doing so, the legislature must pay regard to the Constitution (inter alia, 25 November 2002, 20 February 2008, and 22 March 2010).

III

On the constitutionality of Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance

1. It has been mentioned that, in the constitutional justice case at issue, the Constitutional Court examines the compliance of, inter alia, Paragraph 2 (wording of 9 May 2013) of Article 16 of the Law, insofar as it provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), with the provision “motherhood […] shall be under the protection and care of the State” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution, the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 thereof, and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

2. The doubts of the petitioner regarding the compliance of the impugned legal regulation with the Constitution are essentially based on the fact that the said legal regulation denied the right to receive a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave for women who had become employed prior to the receipt of a document certifying their education (and not within three months after receiving it). In the opinion of the petitioner, according to the impugned legal regulation, persons who, at the end of their studies, sought to become employed as quickly as possible and to earn income for themselves and their families and, at the same time, to contribute to the accumulation of the funds of the budget of the State Social Insurance Fund, when viewed from the perspective of the right to receive a maternity allowance, were placed in a less favourable position than those who became employed after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months after the completion of studies.

3. It has been mentioned that Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law prescribed: “The right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave shall apply to such insured persons under 26 years of age where, by the beginning of the pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, they have not completed the period set in Paragraph 1 of this Article due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies and where they became insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months after the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies).

Thus, as mentioned above, Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law established an exception to the condition (a person must complete the established minimum period of sickness and maternity social insurance) for the right, consolidated in Paragraph 1 of this article, to receive a maternity allowance; according to the said exception, in certain cases, a maternity allowance was granted for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave also to those insured (employed) persons under the age of 26 years who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies.

4. When deciding whether Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, to the specified extent, was in conflict with Constitution, it should be noted that, as mentioned above:

when implementing, under Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution, the constitutional obligation of the state to create a favourable environment for family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood, various forms of the protection of, and support to, family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood could be developed; the legislature, taking account of various social, demographic, and economic factors, inter alia, the material and financial possibilities of the state, has broad discretion to choose concrete instruments of protection and support;

the constitutional obligation of the state to protect and care for family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood is also in certain aspects expressed, as a general principle, in other provisions of the Constitution, inter alia, in Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, which consolidates the guarantee of paid leave before and after childbirth to working mothers, as well as favourable working conditions and other concessions;

under Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, the legislature, in regulating the implementation of the right to the guaranteed and paid leave of a reasonable length of time before and after childbirth to working mothers and taking into consideration the constitutional purpose of the said leave, while paying regard to other norms and principles of the Constitution (inter alia, the constitutional imperatives of a state under the rule of law, justice, reasonableness, and the equality of rights), must establish, inter alia, the conditions for giving such leave and a reasonable (minimum and maximum) length of such leave;

the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law is also inseparable from the principle of the equality of the rights of persons, which is consolidated in the Constitution; the latter principle requires that in law the main rights and duties be established equally to all; this principle would be violated if certain persons or their groups were treated in a different manner, even though there are no differences of such a nature and to such an extent between the said persons or their groups that would objectively justify their uneven treatment; any violation of the said principle is, at the same time, a violation of the constitutional imperatives of justice and harmonious society, and, thus, also a violation of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

5. In this ruling, it has been noted that, according to the impugned Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, insured (working) persons under 26 years of age who had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied were granted a maternity allowance in cases where they had become insured persons (had become employed) exclusively after graduation from a particular school and not later than within three months after the completion of studies (i.e. only after the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies); if insured (working) persons under 26 years of age had not completed the prescribed sickness and maternity social insurance period because they studied during the specified periods of time and had become insured (employed) before graduation from a particular school (prior to the receipt of a document certifying the completion of studies), they would not have been granted a maternity allowance.

5.1. It should be noted that the legal regulation that existed in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law created such a situation where the insured persons who did not complete the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to their studies and who became employed later (i.e. only after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of their studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies)) were placed in a more favourable position than those who became employed earlier (i.e. before receiving a document certifying the completion of studies), even though between these groups of persons there were no differences of such a nature or to such an extent that could objectively justify this unequal treatment: both the persons who became employed before receiving a document certifying the completion of studies and the persons who became employed after receiving this document (within three months of their graduation) were covered by social insurance (were employed) at the beginning of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave; both groups of these persons had not completed the established sickness and maternity social insurance period qualifying for a maternity allowance due to the fact that, during the specified periods, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies.

The fact whether a person became employed when possessing a document certifying the completion of studies or without having received such a document may not be regarded as grounds for an objective justification for different treatment of persons who are in the same situation from the aspect that they did not complete the established insurance period due to their studies. Thus, the impugned legal regulation disregarded the requirements stemming from the constitutional principle of the equality of the rights of persons, as well as those stemming from the constitutional imperatives of justice and harmonious society; thus, the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law was also disregarded.

5.2. It should be held that the legislature, having stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law that only those insured persons who did not complete the established sickness and maternity social insurance period due to their studies and who became insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies) were entitled to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave, inappropriately implemented the obligation of the state, entrenched in Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution, to create a favourable environment, inter alia, for motherhood, and the duty of the legislature, consolidated in Paragraph 2 of Article 39 thereof, to establish the conditions for granting the guaranteed paid leave before and after childbirth to working mothers; thus, the legislature violated the requirements stemming from Paragraph 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, as well as from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

6. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, insofar as the said paragraph provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

7. Having held this, the Constitutional Court will not further examine whether Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, to the specified extent, was in conflict with the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution.

IV

On the constitutionality of Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances

1. It has been mentioned that, in the constitutional justice case at issue, the Constitutional Court examines the compliance of, inter alia, Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations, insofar as the said item provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), with the provision “motherhood […] shall be under the protection and care of the State” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution, the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 thereof, and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

2. The doubts of the petitioner as to the compliance of the legal regulation laid down in Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations with the Constitution are based on the same arguments as its doubts as to the constitutionality of Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law.

3. It has been mentioned that Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations stipulated that the right to receive a maternity allowance applied to persons who “are under 26 years of age before the beginning of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave where they have not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period prescribed in Subitem 38.3 of these Regulations due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied under the programmes of general education or vocational training, or at a higher education institution under day-time or full-time studies and where they became insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months after the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies)”.

It has also been mentioned that Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations established a legal regulation analogous to that laid down in Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, according to which insured (employed) persons under 26 years of age who had not completed the sickness and maternity social insurance period, which was prescribed in the Law, due to the fact that, during the specified periods of time, they studied were granted a maternity allowance in cases where they had become insured persons (had become employed) exclusively after graduation from a particular school and not later than within three months after the completion of studies, i.e. exclusively after receiving a document certifying the completion of studies.

4. After it has been held in this ruling that Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013) of the Law, insofar as the said paragraph provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, it should also be held on the grounds of the same arguments that Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations, insofar as the said item provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

5. In view of this fact, the conclusion should be drawn that Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations, insofar as the said item provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

6. Having held this, the Constitutional Court will not further examine whether Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013) of the Regulations, to the specified extent, was in conflict with the provision “Everyone may freely choose a job or business” of Paragraph 1 of Article 48 of the Constitution.

Conforming to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1, 53, 531, 54, 55, and 56 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania gives the following

ruling:

1. To recognise that Paragraph 2 of Article 16 (wording of 9 May 2013; Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2013, No 54-2689) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, insofar as the said paragraph provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

2. To recognise that Item 38.4 (wording of 23 October 2013; Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2013, No 113-5646) of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, as approved by the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No 86) of 25 January 2001 on the approval of the Regulations on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance Allowances, insofar as the said item provided that the right to a maternity allowance for the period of pregnancy-and-childbirth leave applied to such insured persons who had become insured persons exclusively after graduation from a particular educational institution and within three months of the completion of studies (according to a document certifying the completion of studies), was in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 38 and Paragraph 2 of Article 39 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

This ruling of the Constitutional Court is final and not subject to appeal.

Justices of the Constitutional Court: Elvyra Baltutytė
                                                                      Vytautas Greičius
                                                                      Danutė Jočienė
                                                                      Gediminas Mesonis
                                                                      Vytas Milius
                                                                      Egidijus Šileikis
                                                                      Algirdas Taminskas
                                                                      Dainius Žalimas