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Working in Europe
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Group of people with different professionsLooking for work can be a major challenge, especially during times of economic turmoil, but being part of the European Union means there’s a massive jobs market to search in.

EU law ensures all workers have the right to look for a job in another member state, and the right to work there if they find one.

They’re also guaranteed equal treatment in regards to pay, working conditions and social security benefits.

At the moment only about two per cent of EU citizens work outside their country of origin but this figure is expected to grow as the European labour market develops and responds to the changing economic climate.

There are significant personal and professional advantages to working abroad. Current skills can be developed, new ones learned and it’s always interesting to see life from a fresh perspective.

Living in a different culture can also be an exciting experience and getting to grips with a new language is a challenge that could open doors to more fulfilling jobs.

Finding work

Searching for a job outside of your home country might seem like a daunting process but the EU can help not only through legislation but also by providing useful information and services.

Looking at job adsThe European Employment Services (EURES) network lists thousands of jobs across the EU and employs over 700 advisors who are in daily contact with employers all over Europe.

Its role is to match jobseekers with vacancies and help solve any problems that workers or employers might encounter along the way. EURES works in partnership with trade unions and employers' organisations to make sure workers can fully enjoy their right to freedom of movement across the European Economic Area (EEA).

The EEA includes all 28 EU states as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. EURES also covers the jobs market in Switzerland.

A separate service called Your First EURES Job has been set up to help first-time job-seekers (18-30 years) to find work in other EU countries. Your First EURES Job also provides help to businesses looking for workers with a specific profile they can't find in their home country.

Registering with EURES allows jobseekers submit their CV which will then be made available to employers in all 32 countries.

It’s also possible to check out the jobs market and working conditions in different countries on the EURES website and advisors can be contacted for advice on finding and accepting a job abroad.

EURES also provides employers, including small and medium-sized businesses, with a personalised service to help them find employees with specific skills or knowledge.

Unemployed workers have the right to live and look for work in an EU country for a reasonable period of time. Most member states take this to be six months and will usually allow an extension if there’s interviews or tests to attend.

It’s also possible to claim unemployment benefit from your home country for three months, extendable to six months, while you look for work abroad.

Self employed workers have the right to work in any EU country either permanently or temporarily.


JobseekerIrish Jobseekers don’t have to worry about having their skills acknowledged abroad as there’s a system in place that facilitates the recognition of work related qualifications across the entire European Union.

The system was established by EU directives in order to make the labour market more flexible and it guarantees the mutual recognition of qualifications between Member States.

There's also Europass, an initiative to help jobseekers to present their qualifications and skills so that employers can correctly understand and appreciate them, either at home or abroad. Europass consists of five documents:

-    two documents (Europass curriculum vitae (CV) and Europass Language Passport) you can fill in yourself; and

-    three other documents (Europass Certificate Supplement, Europass Diploma Supplement and Europass Mobility) filled in and issued by competent organisations.

The European Commission is also introducing a European Qualifications Framework (EQF) which will be a common European reference framework linking countries’ qualifications systems together, and acting as a translation device to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems in Europe.

The European Qualifications Framework will be implemented in two stages. The first stage (referring national qualifications levels to the EQF) should be completed by 2010. Ireland completed this process in June 2009.

The second stage (introducing a reference to the EQF in all new Certificate and Diploma Supplements) should be completed by 2012.

The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland is the National Coordination Point for the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF) and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the EQF in Ireland.

Welfare Benefits

People queuing for welfareOnce you find a job in another EU country there are rules in place that guarantee the same social security and welfare benefits as nationals of the host country. You also have the right to join a trade union of your choice and to exercise union rights on the same conditions as host-country employees.

National social security systems aren’t harmonised throughout the EU but they are coordinated. As long you’ve paid enough contributions you can claim sickness and maternity benefits, old age pensions and unemployment payments.

Each EU country determines its own tax system but there is a system in place to ensure you don’t pay taxes in both your home and host countries.

EU citizens working abroad can register as ‘resident for tax purposes’ in their host country and bilateral tax conventions have been agreed between all member states so double taxation can be avoided.


Mother with childEU rules on freedom of movement and rights of residence mean that workers can bring their family, regardless of their nationality, to join them in the country they’re working in.

Family is defined as spouse, registered partner, dependent children, dependant parents and the dependant parents of your spouse but the host country is obliged to ‘consider favourably’ applications from other family members who aren’t EU citizens.

All EU member states also have statutory parental leave provisions for the period following maternity leave, guaranteed by the minimum requirements set out in an EU directive on parental leave.

The Directive provides that, subject to some conditions, workers are entitled to parental leave and to take time off from work for pressing family reasons due to sickness or accident.

The directive also grants men and women an individual right to parental leave from work on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child for at least three months.

Statutory parental leave provisions vary considerably from state to state but all EU countries are obliged to protect workers against dismissal for taking parental leave in accordance with their national law, collective agreements or practices.

Under the directive workers taking parental leave have the right to return to the same job or an equivalent one.

The duration of statutory maternity leave ranges from 14 to 28 weeks across EU member states, with most national provisions falling within the range of 15 to 20 weeks.

Find out more about:

• Protecting your rights as an EU worker (booklet)

Living & Working in different EU countries

EU Employment, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities

Moving within Europe - your Social Security Rights

• Your Europe Advice (YEA) - YEA gives guidance and practical advice to EU citizens who encounter problems with mobility in the European internal market.

• SOLVIT - SOLVIT deals with cases involving cross-border problems between a business/citizen and a national public authority where EU law may not have been applied correctly.

EU labour law

Last update: 10/09/2013  |Top