Your consultant

In topic Employment & Social Affairs:

Matthias Dauner

Policy Analyst

+49 761 38693-245

dauner(at)cep.eu

Urs Pötzsch

Policy Analyst

+ 49 761 38693-246

poetzsch(at)cep.eu

Employment & Social Affairs

Even after the Lisbon Treaty, employment and social affairs remain largely within the remit of the Member States. Nevertheless, the EU also wants to achieve full employment and social progress by way of EU-wide proposals and by coordinating national policies. It encourages solidarity between the generations and the prevention of discrimination. cep PolicyBriefs keep track of EU policy in this sensitive area.

Pillar of Social Rights (Communication)

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The EU Commission proposes the introduction of a "Pillar of Social Rights" which is to contain principles for the approximation of the social policies of the Member States. In cep's view, the approximation of social standards is inadvisable because the capacity of the national social systems is too varied.

Accessibility (Directive)

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By way of a Directive, the requirements under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be implemented and the internal market strengthened. This is necessary because some Member States have already adopted diverging national regulations thereby restricting the free movement of goods and services.

Alcohol Strategy 2016–2022

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The European Parliament has urged the EU Commission to “immediately” develop a new strategy to combat harmful alcohol consumption in the EU. In its resolution it already defines an array of concrete measures. The cep is assessing these measures in detail.

Combating Long-term Unemployment (Recommendation)

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The EU Commission has submitted a proposal for a Recommendation on combating long-term unemployment in which the Member States are urged to set up a single point of contact to reduce red tape for the long-term unemployed. This agency will also conclude job integration agreements with long-term unemployed people setting down the rights and duties of both parties. Finally, employers will be involved in the reintegration in order to improve needs-based skills training for the long-term unemployed.

What to do with the Working Time Directive?

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Yet again the EU Commission is trying to revise the Working Time Directive. For years, business has had to live with the case law of the European Court of Justice relating to on-call duty. These blanket rulings meet the needs of only a small minority of companies. cep has been grappling with the problem of the Working Time Directive.

Make better use of the Blue Card's potential

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Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker would like to revise the rules on the immigration to the EU of highly qualified employees from non-EU states to cope with the global competition for the cleverest minds. The Blue Card Directive forms the central pillar of EU law on the immigration of highly qualified people to the EU from non-EU countries. Therefore, the cep considers whether the provisions on the Blue Card should be revised and offers four concrete recommendations for action.

Occupational pensions (IORP II) (Directive)

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The EU Commission makes proposals for strengthening the internal market for occupational pensions. It wants to facilitate cross-border IORPs business, ensure effective supervision of IORPs and enhance governance. In addition it extends the obligations for providing information to members and beneficiaries and amends the investment rules.

Health and Safety at Work (Communication)

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The Commission outlines its strategy for health and safety at work 2014-2020. Accidents at work cause the deaths of 4,000 workers each year EU-wide and result in more than three million employees EU-wide being absent from work for more than three days every year.

Mobile Health (mHealth) (Green Paper)

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The Commission wants to hold an open debate on the possibilities of mobile health and, in particular, to establish whether and what problems exist in relation to extending the sector. It calls on the public to answer a list of 23 questions.

EURES: European Network of Employment Services (Regulation)

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The Commission wants to extend the existing network of employment services "EURES" in order to improve employee mobility. In particular, the Commission wants more job vacancies to be EU-wide available.

The Social Dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (Communication)

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Within the framework of the European Semester, the Commission wants to improve the surveillance and coordination of developments in social and employment policy. In addition, it wants to make EU funds available to combat unemployment and improve cross-border cooperation between employment services. It is also calling for an autonomous budget to absorb asymmetric shocks and the transfer of legislative competence regarding social policy to the EU.

Quality Framework for Traineeships (Recommendation)

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The Commission calls for a Quality Framework for Traineeships (QFT) to improve the working conditions and quality of the content of traineeships as well as to increase the cross-border mobility of trainees.

Youth Unemployment (Communication)

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Youth unemployment has risen dramatically as a consequence of the economic and debt crisis in the EU. The Commission presents the Member States with various measures to combat the high youth unemployment level. In this regard it emphasises that the Member States can only increase their competitiveness and thereby achieve more growth and employment by way of “deep structural reforms”.

Cooperation between public employment services (Decision)

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The Commission wants to integrate the public employment services (PES) in the Member States into a formal network and improve their efficiency by way of a benchmarking system.

Reporting Requirements on „Diversity“ and „Non-financial Risks“ (Directive)

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The Commission wants to expand Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) and at the same time commit companies to greater transparency. Large and medium-sized companies should therefore be required to report on „non-financial risks“ on one hand, and on the other, report on its diversity policies for the appointment to management and supervisory bodies.

Enforcing freedom of movement for workers (Directive)

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The right to the freedom of movement for workers is granted to all EU citizens by way of Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the Regulation on the freedom of movement [VO (EU) No. 492/2011]. Nevertheless, many EU citizens consider themselves subject to obstacles when it comes to the exercise of this right. The Commission therefore wants to enhance enforcement of the freedom of movement for workers.

Attesting the safety-critical competences of train crew (Report)

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By contrast with train drivers, there is currently no EU-wide standard certification of safety-critical qualifications for train crew entrusted with safety-critical tasks. The Commission views this as a obstacle to employee mobility and therefore wants to introduce EU-wide standard training for train crew.

Social Investment (Communication)

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The Commission formulates proposals for "modernising" national welfare systems. It calls, in particular, for an increase in "social investment".

Action Plan Entrepreneurship 2020 (Communication)

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The Commission formulates recommendations to the Member States and outlines some of its own measures intended to promote entrepreneurship in the EU.

Action Plan: European Company Law and Corporate Governance (Communication)

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The Commission explains how it wants to reform European company law and the legal framework for corporate governance.

EU-wide Youth Employment Guarantee (Recommendation)

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The Commission wants the Member States to provide all young people between the ages of 15 and 24 with a guarantee that they will receive employment or training within four months of leaving school or losing a job.

Gender Quota (Directive)

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The Commission’s proposal comes as no great surprise. By 2020, 40% of the non-executive directors of stock-listed companies are to be women. In order to comply with the principle of proportionality, several exceptions are allowed. For instance, the Directive applies solely to companies with an annual turnover exceeding 50 million and with more than 250 employees. Where a third of the company’s board of directors are already women, then the quota can be considered fulfilled. And if a company can prove that they could not find any eligible female applicants, they do not have to comply with the quota requirement. With regard to filling the positions on management boards, the introduction of a ‘flexi-quota is proposed’, according to which companies set their own targets.

In order to ensure that companies comply with the quota, Member States must provide for penalties -  what form these may take is up to the Member States. They must, however, be effective, proportionate and serve as a deterrent.

Towards a Job-Rich Recovery (Communication)

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In its Communication, the Commission proposes to Member States measures to create new jobs in the EU.

Pension Schemes (White Paper)

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The Commission presents its ideas on how to safeguard adequate, safe and sustainable pensions in the Member States. The Commission sees urgent need for action in pay-as-you-go pension schemes – which are mainly public – of Member States in order to address demographic change. With regard to funded schemes the Commission mainly calls for an EU-wide regulation and supervision. 

Company Restructuring (Green Paper)

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In its Restructuring Green Paper, the Commission calls upon all Member States to make use of instruments such as short-time working schemes, working time accounts and corporate work alliances during times of crisis, as they are suitable for safeguarding jobs. Moreover, it proposes reforms of the tax and benefit schemes in order to minimize the impact of the crisis on the labour market. In the case of company restructurings due to economic changes, the Commission requests an early involvement of “all relevant stakeholders” and a harmonisation of parts of the insolvency law. Thus the chances of future adjustment measures of restructuring processes are to be improved. Moreover, “amendments” of employment termination rules are to safeguard a high level of employment and social protection.

Recognition of Professional Qualification (Directive)

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The amendments mainly focus on two areas. Firstly, the introduction of the European Professional Card validating the professional qualifications of an employee at the European level. Secondly, the existing common platforms are to be replaced by “common training principles for professions which are regulated in at least two thirds of the Member States and which are not subject to minimum training requirements. For such professions common training principles and exams are to be introduced. Trainees having passed such exams are automatically authorised to pursue the tested profession in every Member State.

Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy 2011-2014 (Communication)

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The Commission announces to draw up together with enterprises and other stakeholder a code of conduct in 2012. All enterprises are to commit to comply with CSR approaches on a voluntary basis. In addition, enterprises with more than 1000 employees are to adhere to the internationally recognized ISO 26000 Guidance Standards. In order to establish such self-commitments, the Commission wishes to revise the legal framework, in particular in the field of public procurement and thus put enterprises under pressure.

Modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive (Green Paper)

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The Commission wishes to revise the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. In the present Green Paper, it presents its concept. The Commission is mainly focusing on the introduction of a European professional card in which the countries of origin certify that all requirements for exercising a certain profession in a host country have been met. The procedure is to be carried out electronically.

Early Childhood Education and Care (Communication)

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The Commission deems early childhood education and care (ECEC) an essential foundation for successful lifelong learning, social integration and personal development. Children with a solid ECEC foundation, later have much better options on the labour market for employability.

Equal Treatment through Discrimination

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To date, the “Unisex Directive“ (2004/113/EC) allowed for sex-differentiated insurance premiums and benefits “where the use of sex is a determining factor in the assessment of risk based on relevant and accurate actuarial and statistical data”. On 1 March 2011, the European Court of Justice held that this was not in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Working Time Directive (Communication)

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Following the failure of its last Amendment Proposal, the Commission is again planning a review of the Working Time Directive. Based on a questionnaire, the Commission intends to undertake a full-scale consultation of the social partners (workers and employers associations) at European level, in order to clarify whether the social partners also consider a review of the Working Time Directive to be necessary and, if so, what such a review could look like.
The key issues are the rules on the maximum working time, dealing with on-call time, determining rest periods and calculating the average weekly working time.

A European Contribution towards full Employment (Communication)

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In its Communication, the Commission proposes measures intended to contribute to more flexible labour markets, job creation, workers’ qualification and the improvement of working conditions.

The Commission’s considerations regarding employment policy are based on an EU headline target adopted under the strategy “Europe 2020” [COM(2010) 2020] whose aim it is to achieve an employment rate of 75% by 2020. In order to reach this target, the Commission is shifting its focus from a merely reactive to an anticipatory policy approach, as is already evident in the Single Market Act [COM(2010) 608] and the Flagship Initiative on the Innovation Union [COM(2010) 546], as well as an “Integrated Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era“ [COM(2010 614)].

Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010–2015 (Communication)

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Already in the “Women’s Charter“ of March 2010, the Commission announced to strengthen the gender perspective in all its policies. The current Communication substantiates the Commission’s announcement by describing the key areas for action and which measures it wishes to take. The Commission remains rather vague in its Communication, but has published a working document [SEC(2010) 1079] accompanying the Communication with a catalogue of 130 specific, non-legislative measures.

Transfer of Employees from third-countries to the EU (Directive)

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The Commission proposes to entitle undertakings established in a third country to transfer their managers and specialists to their EU subsidiaries. To this end, a uniform procedure for granting residence and working permits should be established in all Member States. The permit is granted for the duration of the transfer and can be extended by up to three years. It is equally valid for transfers to subsidiaries in other Member states if limited to 12 months. Family member should be entitled to enter the EU along with the employee concerned without any integration measures being required before their entry.

Pension Systems (Green Paper)

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In its Green Paper „Adequate, sustainable and safe European pension systems”, published on 7 July 2010, the Commission addresses all the challenges that pay-as-you-go and funded pension schemes are facing. With regard to the pay-as-you-go – usually public – systems, the Commission sees urgent need for action in order to tackle demographic change. Regarding funded systems, the Commission manly calls for EU-wide, harmonised regulation and supervision. The Commission’s aim is to improve the sustainability and security of pension systems. Furthermore, the Commission is considering whether or not it should define “when” pension is adequate.

Vocational Education (Communication)

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According to the Commission, a solid vocational education is key to a smooth entry into the labour market. In addititon, the expected shortage of skilled professionals can be best tackled through a consistent vocational training based on a solid vocational education. Moreover, the cross-border mobility of employees can be improved if the comparability of national educational qualifications is ensured and if skills acquired abroad are equally recognised at home. In its Communication, the Commission clearly stresses the necessity to give “a new impetus” to the Copenhagen process which forms the basis of modernising the system of vocational education in Member States in order to establish future-oriented and sustainable vocational education and training systems.

Guidelines for the Europe 2020 Employment Policies (Decision)

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Member States have agreed to improve the coordination of their employment policies, in the scope of the Europe 2020 strategy. To this end, the Commission presented to the Council guidelines for employment policies outlining the direction which educational, labour and social policies of Member States should take. The headline targets of the guidelines are identical to those proposed to the European Council within the context of the Europe 2020 strategy.

Working Time Directive - 2nd-phase Consultation (Communication)

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The Commission proposes two options for reviewing the Working Time Directive and invites the social partners to express whether and which issues they would wish to negotiate. The Commission intends to revise at least the provisions on on-call time and compensatory rest for on-call time (option 1). These revisions are anyway required by the ECJ’s ruling. The second option provides for a comprehensive revision of the Working Time Directive. The Commission aspires to increase flexibility in working time. Moreover, rules on the “work-life balance”, the “opt-out”, paid annual leave and individual sector-specific issues are to be reviewed.

Health Inequalities (Communication)

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The Commission aims to eliminate “health inequalities“ between Member States, different population groups and between men and women. To this end, it plans to have the data base on health inequalities in the EU extended, to promote the exchange of best practices and to fund these actions through the framework of cohesion policy.

Online Cultural Database Collection "Europeana" (Communication)

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The Commission is planning to increase Europeana’s collection by 10 million objects by 2010. To this end, it calls Member States to contribute to a “sustained digitisation“.

Parental Leave (Directive)

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In line with the roadmap for equality between women and men (2006-2010) [COM(2006) 92] the Commission has obliged itself to assess all rules on gender equality and the reconciliation of family life and work. Since the provisions on parental leave are based on a Framework Agreement, the Commission asked the social partners to revise it. The revised version of it is to be given legal effect now.

Remuneration of Directors (Recommendation)

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With the latest Recommendation C(2009) 3177 of 30. April 2009 the Commission revises the already existing Recommendation 2004/913/EC and 2005/162/EC regulating the remuneration of directors of listed companies. While the existing Recommendations focus on the procedures and responsibilities when fixing the remuneration of directors the Commission now intervenes into the design of remuneration agreements. The Commission mainly wishes remuneration to be based on performances in the future and generates incentives to ensure the medium and long-term economic sustainability of companies. In particular, the Recommendation contains details on variable components of remuneration and termination payments.

Demographic Change (Communication)

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The Commission expects a dramatic increase in public spending for pension, healthcare and the care of elderly people within Member States by 2060. Therefore, it is urging for necessary structural reforms of social insurance systems. Furthermore, it promotes higher education budgets and target-oriented measures to activate the job market.

Equal Treatment of Self-Employed Women and their Life Partners (Directive)

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With its Proposal for a Directive the EU Commission mainly wishes to improve the social protection of self-employed women and their spouses/life partners engaged in their businesses. Accordingly, spouses assisting self-employed women are to have the same access to social security schemes as self-employed persons and self-employed women are to be provided with maternity protection. Moreover, access to self-employment must be practicable irrespective of gender or family status.

Amendment of the Directive on Maternity Protection (Directive)

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The EU Commission proposes to change the Directive on maternity protection in order to improve health protection at work and equal opportunities for pregnant and breastfeeding workers. The key points of the Proposal are the extension of the duration of paid maternity leave and of the protection from dismissal as well as a generally increased legal protection.

Equal Treatment Outside the Labour Market (Directive)

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The Proposal for a Directive aims at improved protection against discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation is to be extended in order to cover areas that go beyond employment and occupation. The Proposal does not affect religious organisations. Furthermore, the Proposal contains several special rules regarding unequal treatment on grounds of age or disability.

Improvement of Maternity Protection (Directive)

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The EU Commission proposes to change the Directive on maternity protection in order to improve health protection at work and equal opportunities for pregnant and breastfeeding workers. The key points of the Proposal are the extension of the duration of paid maternity leave and of the protection from dismissal as well as a generally increased legal protection.

Tobacco products (Directive)

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The Commission wants to combat tobacco consumption, particularly among young people, and for this purpose re-harmonise the rules on tobacco products.

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