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Updating EU rules on employment contracts

26 September 2017
by eub2 -- last modified 26 September 2017

The European Commission has entered into further discussions with trade unions and employers' organisations at EU level on how to modernise the rules on employment contracts, in order to make these contracts fairer and more predictable for all types of workers.


What is the Written Statement Directive and why does the Commission consider modernising the rules on labour contracts?

The Written Statement Directive exists since 1991 and gives employees starting a new job the right to be notified in writing of the essential aspects of their employment relationship. The aim of this Directive is to make sure workers are aware of their rights.

The world of work has been and is changing rapidly and new forms of work have emerged. As a consequence, the current Directive no longer covers all types of employment relationships. Under the framework of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission therefore launched a social partner consultation to revise the Directive, so that it would reflect labour market changes.

In addition, the Commission's evaluation of the Directive so far showed that many workers in the EU do not receive a written confirmation of their working conditions or do not receive all the information they need in a timely manner. This includes domestic workers and those who perform on-call work. Moreover, whatever the level of information provided to workers, some practices in some precarious labour relationships may be detrimental to workers, especially as regards casual work: According to a report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), casual work (such as zero-hour contracts) raises particular concerns about working conditions and is characterised by low levels of job and income security.

What changes to the Directive are being considered?

Three areas for action are considered. First, the scope of the directive could be clarified, encompassing all workers, including those on short-term assignments or those having new and atypical employment relationships. Second, the revision could reinforce the principle of written information about applicable working conditions and update the list of required elements, for instance with the working schedule, conditions of a probation period or overtime. Third, beyond proper information in writing in a timely manner, the modernised rule could also establish some basics right such as the right to a degree of predictability of work for workers with very flexible contracts or the right to a maximum duration of a probation period.

How are social partners consulted?

As laid down in the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, Article 154 TFEU, the Commission has the duty to consult European social partners prior to presenting any legislative proposal in the social field. The consultation must follow a compulsory two-stage procedure. In the first stage the Commission consults the social partners on the possible direction of an initiative. In the second stage, the focus is on the content of an initiative. This process gives the European social partners the possibility to be directly involved and influence the drafting of social proposals. Moreover, social partners may suspend the Commission initiative whilst deciding to enter into negotiations themselves. If this does not happen, the Commission can review the current Directive. The Commission intends to propose a revision of this directive by the end of the year.

What is the position of the social partners after the first stage of the consultation?

The first stage consultation of social partners showed diverging views from workers and employers organisations. While the worker's organisations agreed with the need to enhance the effectiveness of the Written Statement Directive and the goal to improve the working conditions for vulnerable workers, a large majority of employers' organisations rejected those ideas. Therefore the social partners were not in a position to initiate formally the joint negotiation process provided for in Article 155 TFEU. However, they reserved the possibility to do so in the context of the second phase consultation.

What is the Commission planning on doing on access to social protection?

As a first step, when presenting the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission has launched a consultation of the Social Partners to collect their views on the possible direction of an EU action to ensure that people in all forms of employment have adequate access to social protection and employment services. The Commission will take the next step by launching a second stage consultation shortly this autumn.

Source: European Commission