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Chapter 13 - Employment and social policy
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December 2004

Background

Employment and social policy covers areas where there exists substantial secondary legal acquis at EU level, such as health and safety issues, labour law and equality of treatment between women and men, as well as areas such as social dialogue, employment and social protection where convergent policies are being developed, on the basis of the EC Treaty. In these areas there are no legal obligations to implement precise policy measures but a very important general obligation to co-ordinate the respective policies in order to develop a homogenous social framework in line with the principle and rules of the EU Treaty.

Labour law

To harmonise some aspect of the labour law at European level the EU has issued Directives in the following fields: collective redundancies, safeguarding of employment rights in case of transfer of undertaking, employer obligation to inform employees of the condition applicable to the employment contract, guarantee for the employees in case of insolvency of the employer, posting of workers and organisation of working time.

Equality of treatment between women and men

The Amsterdam Treaty has added equality between men and women to the list of Community objectives, explicitly providing that in all its activities the Community must aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women. In particular, the new Article 141 of the EC Treaty lends greater support to equal treatment of men and women and to equal opportunities. The practical implementation of this gender mainstreaming is spelt out in the Community Framework Strategy on Gender Equality (2001 2005) which involve policy analysis and planning, the collection of statistical data broken down by sex, as well as training and awareness-raising of the key actors involved.

As appropriate, legislation is also used to achieve equality, especially to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sex. Most of the current legislation relates to employment in the following fields: equal treatment in employment and occupation, social security, occupational social security schemes, parental leave, protection of pregnant women, women who have recently given birth and women who are breastfeeding.

Anti discrimination

With the entry into force of the new Article 13 of the EC Treaty, introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Community has the power to combat discrimination on a wider range of grounds than ever before - sex, racial and ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, age and sexual orientation - and in areas both in and outside of employment.

The Community's legislative framework now includes Directive 2000/43/EC prohibiting racial and ethnic discrimination in employment, education, social security and healthcare, access to goods and services and housing and Directive 2000/78/EC prohibiting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion and belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. A Community Action Programme has been defined in order to promote the study of discrimination and exchanges of experience and good practice between the Member States.

Health and safety

The Single European Act gave new impetus to social policy in the areas of health and safety at work. The considerable acquis in this field is aimed at harmonising, through Directives, which fix minimum health and safety standards for the working conditions in the EU. The compliance with the health and safety acquis is essential to reap the benefits from, for example, fewer work accidents and occupational injuries and diseases. To achieve this goal, timely and complete transposition and implementation of EU legislation on health and safety at work must be accompanied by the effective operation of labour inspection institutions.

Social protection

For the EU an evolving co-operation to promote an effective system of social protection is an important component of the wider employment and social situation in the EU. While the funding and organisation of social protection systems remain the responsibility of individual Member States, the EU requires that these systems have the capacity to develop and operate sustainable and universally applicable social protection systems in line with the Treaty objectives. The systems of the candidate countries must also be capable of co-ordinating with those systems currently operating in the EU which are themselves developing in a very dynamic way and undergoing significant reform.

Social dialogue

The Treaty requires that social dialogue be promoted and gives additional powers to the social partners. The candidate countries are, therefore, invited to confirm that social dialogue is accorded the importance required and that the social partners are sufficiently developed in order to discharge their responsibilities at EU and national level, and to indicate whether they are consulted on legislative drafts relating to the taking over of the employment and social policy acquis.

Amsterdam gives the social partners a central role in drawing up and applying Community social policy. Therefore, the development not only of tripartite structures but also of autonomous, representative bipartite social dialogue is an important aspect for the future involvement of the candidates countries' social partners in the social dialogue activities developed at European and national level.

Employment

The candidate countries shall work in co-operation with the EU on the follow up of the Employment Policy Review. The candidate countries are invited to address the following issues:

  1. whether the functioning of the labour market is improving so as to ensure that labour supply can be effectively matched with demand for labour on the domestic market and what policy measures are being developed to support this process;
  2. whether policy reforms and labour market transformations are progressing sufficiently rapidly and deeply to permit a full participation in the Single Market;
  3. the policies and measures are being pursued to prepare the large share of the working age population which is unskilled or inappropriately skilled for a market economy;
  4. the degree of readiness of the employment policy structures and the employment policy delivery systems to implement the Employment Strategy.

The acquis also covers the European Social Fund (ESF), public health programmes measures on the ECSC, a Council regulation on the European Monitoring Centre on racism and xenophobia and measures on the creation/management of the European Foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions.

Public Health

An article 152 of the new Treaty stipulates that a high level of health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Community policies and activities. Accordingly, the EU attaches great importance to ensuring a high level of human health protection in the definition and implementation of all Community policies. To protect public health the EU also issued several Directives the area of tobacco product and advertising.

Institutions explicitly required by the acquis

Even if the enforcement is the responsibility of Member States and requires administrative and judicial structures at national level, the candidate countries are requested to effectively enforce the acquis through judicial and administrative systems similar to the one of the Member States.

The acquis also covers the European Social Fund (ESF), public health (programmes and tobacco directives), measures on the ECSC, a Council regulation on the European Monitoring Centre on racism and xenophobia and measures on the creation/management of the European Foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions.

Implementation/enforcement is the responsibility of Member States and requires administrative and judicial structures at national level and co-operation among the key players. Amsterdam gives the social partners a central role in drawing up and applying Community social policy.

State of play

The chapter was closed with 10 countries in December 2002. The chapter has been provisionally closed with Bulgaria and Romania in April 2002 and definitely closed with both countries in December 2004.

Some legislative work remains for all countries in the areas of labour law (where the amendments are often of a technical nature), equality of treatment (where there have been significant progress) and major efforts need to be made to comply with the health and safety rules (significant cost implications especially for SME).

Candidate countries had been asked to provide detailed timetables for adoption and implementation of all measures (in particular health and safety directives). This has in general been done. Candidate countries had also been requested to provide further details on enforcement and practical implementation, in particular the role of the various inspections bodies and the systems of redress open to aggrieved persons.

All candidates are participating in "employment reviews" with the Commission services over the coming years. However, in advance of the output of these reviews, requests for detailed information had been put to candidates and good information has been received generally.

Compliance with the acquis

The latest assessment of each candidate country’s compliance with the acquis under this chapter heading, can be found in the 2004 Regular Reports and in the Comprehensive Monitoring Reports, available at:
http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/archives/key_documents/reports_2004_en.htm.

Country by country

Bulgaria

  • Chapter opened: October 2001
  • Status: closed in December 2004 (provisionally closed April 2002)
  • Transitional arrangements:
    • Directive 90/239/EEC as modified by Directive 2001/37/EEC (maximum tar yield of cigarettes) until 31 December 2010

Cyprus (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: September 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in March 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Czech Republic (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: September 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in May 2001)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Estonia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: September 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in October 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Hungary (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: September 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in November 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Latvia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: February 2001
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in June 2001)
  • Transitional arrangements:
    • Directive 89/655/EEC (work equipment) - until 1 July 2004
    • Directive 89/654/EEC (workplace) - until 31 December 2004
    • Directive 90/270/EEC (display screen equipment) - until 31 December 2004

Lithuania (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: November 2000
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in March 2001)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Malta (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: November 2001
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in November 2001)
  • Transitional arrangements:
    • Directives 93/104/EC (working time) until 31/7/04; However, the existing collective agreements providing for a working time which exceed the terms of the Directive, would remain in force until 31/12/04;
    • Directive 89/655/EEC (work equipment) until 31/12/05

Poland (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: September 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in March 2001)
  • Transitional arrangements:
    • Directive 89/655/EEC (work equipment) until 31/12/05

Romania

  • Chapter opened: October 2001
  • Status: closed in December 2004 (provisionally closed April 2002)

Slovakia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: February 2001
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in May 2001)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Slovenia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: September 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in November 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements:
    • Directives 90/679/EEC, 93/88/EEC, 95/30/EC, 97/59/EC and 97/65/EC (biological agents) until 31/12/05
    • Directive 86/188/EEC (noise at work) until 31/12/05
    • Directives 96/94/EC and 91/322/EEC (chemical, physical and biological agents at work) until 31/12/05
    • Directive 98/24/EC
- updated: 17/12/2004
 
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