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European Commission Proposes Protections for Workers


On 22 December 2017, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU. The proposed Directive expands on employers’ existing obligations to inform workers of their working conditions. It also promotes more secure and predictable employment by laying down minimum rights that apply to every worker in the EU, including many previously excluded from such legislation.

This proposed Directive would update and replace Directive 91/533/EEC (the “Written Statement Directive”) on employers’ obligations to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the employment relationship. The Commission asserts that the Written Statement Directive no longer addresses the realities of the labour market, with gaps in legal protections leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation. In particular the proposal seeks to improve conditions for workers on atypical contracts as increased flexibility in the workplace has led to the growth of ‘non-standard’ forms of employment, for example on-demand workers, domestic workers and intermittent workers. The Commission alleges that in the last ten years, more than half of all new jobs created were non-standard, and estimates that 2-3 million additional workers on atypical contracts will be covered and protected by the proposal compared to existing legislation. The proposal also benefits employers, by putting measures in place to avoid administrative burdens. The new Directive would also remove loopholes in employment legislation, thus creating a more even playing field. 

The proposed Directive would protect workers by aligning the definition of ‘worker’ to caselaw of the CJEU, thus ensuring that a broader category of workers are covered by the legislation. It would also broaden the scope of European employment legislation to include more forms of employment. The proposal updates the minimum information requirements set out in the Written Statement Directive, introducing new elements such as training entitlements, conditions of probation, and information about the determination of variable working schedules. The new Directive would require the provision of a written statement on the first day of the employment relationship, as opposed to within two months as currently required, and sets out that the statement may be provided electronically. 

Significantly, the proposed Directive creates new minimum rights for example, workers must be given “reasonable advance notice” of work from their employer set out in advance in the written statement; workers may agree to work outside the reference days and hours but cannot be obliged to do so and must not be subject to detriment if they refuse. The Directive would also create a right to mandatory training without charging its cost to workers. The proposal strengthens an employee’s rights to redress and protections against adverse treatment or consequences. 

The proposal comes as part of the European Commission’s renewed focus on social rights, and aims to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. In order to come into effect, the proposed Directive would need to adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, and be implemented by the Member States, so it could potentially take some time before it will take effect in Ireland. However, the proposed Directive would be extremely beneficial to workers across the EU, especially those in atypical working relationships. 

For further information, please contact Jeffrey Greene or your usual William Fry contact.  

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