EU advances work on “fair and predictable” employment contracts
The European Commission has entered into a further round of discussions with trade unions and employers' organisations at a pan-European level, focusing the modernisation of rules relating to employment contracts.
As Britain leaves, heading for a deregulated model, EU countries are seeking to make things fairer and more predictable for all types of workers.
“Zero hours is clearly a concern, we want to broaden our scope to include other types of employment issues. So, things like Uber,”
This latest initiative is part of the Commission's roll out of the European Pillar of Social Rights, aiming to enhance the already growing convergence between Member States as they head towards better working and living conditions for all.
Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for the Euro, Social Dialogue, Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said: "The role of the social partners is central for moving forward with the European Pillar of Social Rights. This is particularly the case when it comes to addressing challenges related to new forms of employment and providing adequate working conditions in atypical forms of employment
s. Clear rules and common fair employment standards can ultimately protect companies that provide workers with adequate information on their working conditions. The Commission is mindful of the need to balance essential protection for workers with companies' scope for job creation and labour market innovation. That is what our proposal is about".
The Commission wants to broaden the scope of the current Directive on employment contracts (the Written Statement Directive), extending it to new forms of employment, such as on-demand workers, voucher-based workers and platform workers, so that no one is left behind.
As internal debate in departing Britain continues over zero-hours contracts, and unscrupulous employers such as Uber come under fire for their part in creating a Gig Economy, the EU does not shy away from its long held concerns about the UK.
“Zero hours is clearly a concern, we want to broaden our scope to include other types of employment issues. So, things like Uber,” a spokesperson told me on yesterday's announcement. “It's not a formal proposal yet, but the consultation is wide-ranging.”
The Commission says current rules should also be modernised, taking account of developments on the labour market in the past decades. They wrote: “By improving the timeliness and information that is given at the start of an employment contract, workers will be better aware of their rights, and therefore more able to enforce these rights.”
For employers, the EU believes bringing the rules up to date will bring legal clarity and certainty, while avoiding unfair competition.
“Clear rules and common fair employment standards can ultimately protect companies that provide workers with adequate information on their working conditions. The Commission is mindful of the need to balance essential protection for workers with companies' scope for job creation and labour market innovation.”
During the consultation phase, social partners will be able to share their views on the envisaged updates of EU legislation on employment contracts until the 3rd November 2017.
The Commission aims to present a legislative proposal before the end of the year.
Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, said: "Workers have the right to be informed in writing at the start of employment about their rights and obligations. But millions of Europeans working in non-standard contracts are uncertain about their rights. I want all workers across the EU to be clearly covered by the basic rules, independent of their employment status, be them IT platform workers or delivery people. Ensuring fairer and more predictable employment contracts is a basis for fair working conditions across the EU. This is what we strive for with the European Pillar of Social Rights, which I hope will be proclaimed at the highest political level during the Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg on 17 November."
“millions of Europeans working in non-standard contracts are uncertain about their rights. I want all workers across the EU to be clearly covered by the basic rules, independent of their employment status, be them IT platform workers or delivery people.”
On the 26th of April 2017, the Commission presented the European Pillar of Social Rights in two legal forms with identical content: a Commission Recommendation, effective as of that date, and as a proposal for a joint proclamation by the Parliament, the Council and the Commission; and the final outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights, consisting of twenty principles and rights which aim to achieve convergence towards better working and living conditions across the EU.
Making a priority of delivering on the Pillar, the Commission presented in parallel a legislative proposal, notably the proposal to improve work-life balance of working parents and carers, and launched the first stage of two social partner consultations – one to modernise the rules on labour contracts, and another one on access to social protection for all.
From April 26th to June 23rd 2017, social partners were consulted on both topics. Now, the second stage consultation on the modernisation of labour contract rules has started and the next round, on access to social protection, will follow soon.
Under Juncker, the Commission made a “more social Europe” one of its priorities, as reflected in its Political Guidelines of July 2014. In September 2015, on the delivery of President Juncker's first State of the Union, he said: “We have to step up the work for a fair and truly pan-European labour market. (...) As part of these efforts, I will want to develop a European Pillar of Social Rights, which takes account of the changing realities of Europe's societies and the world of work.”
In his most recent State of the Union address, on 13 September 2017, the President confirmed the Commission's commitment to move forward with the Pillar as an essential means to create a deeper, fairer and more social internal market: "If we want to avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, then Member States should agree on the European Pillar of Social Rights as soon as possible and at the latest at the Gothenburg summit in November. National social systems will still remain diverse and separate for a long time. But at the very least, we should work for a European Social Standards Union in which we have a common understanding of what is socially fair. Europe cannot work if it shuns workers."
The Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden, on the 17th November 2017 and Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.