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First orientation debate on the European Pillar of Social Rights

Neoclassical pillar supporting a roof © Brendan Bourdages /

Today the College of Commissioners held a first orientation debate on establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights. It should be a self-standing reference document, of a legal nature, setting out key principles and values shared at EU level.

The Pillar would serve as a framework to screen employment and social performance in the light of rapidly changing work patterns and societies. The Commission wants to ensure that workers can be offered decent protection today and tomorrow.

As a result of the Pillar, EU legislation may need to be revised or complemented to ensure common rules are up-to-date. For instance, occupational health and safety legislation is being reviewed in light of new risks and realities. In areas where Member States are directly competent, better exchange of good practice and benchmarking may help to foster upward convergence.

What are social rights?

Various national, EU and international legal instruments refer to the concept of 'social rights'. They typically comprise one or several of the following rights, essentially linked to the employment contract, working conditions or access to welfare, such as:

  • Right to minimum pay;
  • Minimum rights to representation;
  • Minimum rights during probation periods;
  • Minimum protection against unfair dismissal;
  • Minimum measures to ensure awareness of rights and access to justice; and
  • Right to equal treatment regardless of the type of employment contract.
  • Minimum health and safety rights;
  • Minimum working time protection rights;
  • Access to provisions relating to maternity/paternity;
  • Access to life-long learning and (re-)training;
  • Access to provisions relating to childcare and benefits;
  • Access to provisions relating to unemployment;
  • Access to provisions relating to active inclusion;
  • Access to provisions relating to pensions;
  • Access to basic social services, including health care.


The Commission will launch a broad consultation in a few weeks. Social partners, national, regional and local authorities as well as civil society will be invited to contribute.