A second category of people affected by the childcare allowance: PhD students with a grant

As ‘grant PhD students’ are not paid by the university but receive funding via an external (foreign) scholarship, they are not entitled to a child care allowance in the Netherlands. There are several cases of scholarship PhD students who do not receive a childcare allowance, or who suddenly have to pay back their received allowance worth thousands of euros. Last spring, Minister Van Engelshoven of Education, Culture and Sciences answered parliamentary questions about the right to child care allowance for PhD students.

The ITEM Expertise Centre questioned her arguments on the basis of European law and for this reason had already helped initiate a test case before. Last month, however, the District Court of Limburg dismissed this appeal as unfounded. ITEM is supporting the appeal to the Council of State. Do you want to know exactly what the situation is and what you can do yourself as a PhD student? Then read on.

Scholarship PhD students do not have an employment contract with the university where the PhD is being completed and therefore the right to childcare allowance is uncertain. Scholarship graduates receive their income from a third party. However, European law stipulates that everyone who is referred to as a 'researcher' in his or her residence permit is entitled to the same social security as other employees within the country of residence. In other words: according to ITEM, scholarship PhD students should also receive childcare allowance. After all, we have agreed in the Netherlands that you will receive childcare benefit if you have to leave home due to work obligations.

Indirect discrimination

Moreover, there is indirect discrimination according to ITEM. Based on figures, it appears that grant PhD students are mainly non-Dutch and employee PhD students are strongly represented by Dutch people. Scholarship PhD students are not entitled to childcare allowance while employee PhD students are entitled to childcare allowance because they are employed by a university.

Other families affected as well

Recently, the childcare benefit has been in the news in the Netherlands. It was decided too soon that families were not entitled to it and as a result they often had to pay back thousands of euros. It is now clear that the Tax Administration will have to pay compensation to many families.

ITEM will advise on appeal

The test case on the childcare allowance for grant PhD students has now been decided on as well. According to the judge, the appeal is unfounded and the arguments about social security and indirect discrimination do not apply. The content of the decision leaves something to be desired and that is why ITEM is giving support on the appeal. This case concerned only one year's worth of allowances. There are cases at UM involving a period of 4 years and amounts of EUR 40,000. This is also the case at other universities (a case has run at RUG, Groningen). The case is principled and extensive. After all, within the spirit of the childcare allowance, every parent who is away from home earns childcare allowance through work.

What can you do as a PhD student if you want to apply for childcare benefit?

If you are a PhD student and are encountering problems of this kind, it is useful to contact a tax inspector. He or she can see whether your employment and scholarship can count as an income. As soon as the grant qualifies as an income in any way, you will have the opportunity to receive childcare benefit.

If you have any questions about childcare benefit for scholarship PhD students, please send an email to item @ maastrichtuniversity.nl

Would you like to know more about the background to the process? Go to the cross-border portal.

Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross border cooperation and Mobility (ITEM) operates at the convergence of research, counselling, knowledge exchange, and training activities in the domain of cross-border mobility and cooperation. The countries of the European Union are confronted with great challenges following the increasing globalisation of the economy and the internationalisation of the current and future society. ITEM is an interdisciplinary institute which was initiated by Maastricht University (UM) in cooperation with Zuyd Hogeschool, NEIMED, the (Dutch) province of Limburg, the city of Maastricht and the Meuse-Rhine Euregion.

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