Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Case law

In this case the Court explained the concepts of ‘worker’ and ‘activities as an employed person’. These concepts define fundamental freedoms and may not be interpreted restrictively. The rules on the freedom of movement for workers also concern persons who pursue or wish to pursue an activity as an employed person on a part-time basis and who, based on that fact obtain or would obtain only remuneration lower than the minimum guaranteed in this sector. No distinction may be made between those who are satisfied with that income and those who supplement that income. The rules on the free movement of workers cover only the pursuit of effective and genuine activities. Activities which are regarded as purely marginal and ancillary are excluded. The motives of a worker of a Member State seeking employment in another Member State are of no account to his/her right to enter and reside, if he/she pursues or wishes to pursue an effective and genuine activity. (full text)

Nationals of a Member State may only invoke rights of entry and residence if they have already exercised their freedom of movement in order to carry out an economic activity in another Member State.
The Court confirmed that the provisions on the freedom of movement for workers can be invoked only if the case comes within the area to which Union law applies. (full text)

Free movement of workers is a fundamental freedom of all EU nationals. This case is very important because it confirms that principle and provides a definition of who is a worker. While some Member States argued that the definition of a worker is in accordance with their national law, the Court held that the meaning of the term is a common Union one across the Member States. Any EU national who fills the conditions:
-for a period of time;
-provides services to another person or company;
-is under the direction of another person;
-receives remuneration for those services is a worker and thus entitled to full range of EU freedoms and rights. (full text)

A worker is a person who pursues an activity which is effective and genuine, with the exclusion of activities on such a small scale as to be regarded as purely marginal and ancillary. The essential characteristic of the employment relationship is that for a certain period of time a person performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for which he/she receives remuneration. Union law does not impose any additional conditions for a person to be a worker. Member States cannot unilaterally make the grant of social advantages, as mentioned in Union law, conditional upon the completion of a given period of occupational activity.
A grant awarded for maintenance and for training with a view to the pursuit of university studies, leading to a professional qualification constitutes a social advantage within the meaning of Union law. A national of another Member State who has undertaken university studies in the host State leading to a professional qualification, after having engaged in occupational activity in that State, must be regarded as having kept his/her status as a worker, provided that there is a link between the previous occupational activity and the studies. If it is established that the worker has acquired his/her status exclusively as a result of being accepted for admission to university to undertake the studies, this national will not be entitled to a grant for studies in another Member State. (full text)

This case is important, as the Court discussed the freedom of movement of workers and the right of residence of persons who seek employment. The free movement of workers includes the right for nationals of Member States to seek employment in another Member State. However, this can be subject to temporal limitation. After six months, the person may be required to leave the Member State, unless he/she provides evidence that he/she is continuing to seek employment and that he/she has genuine a chance of finding employment. (full text)

Retention of the status of worker, by a national who leaves his/her employment to pursue full-time studies, is conditional on there being a link between the occupational activities previously pursued in the host Member State and the studies undertaken. There is an exception for migrant workers who have involuntarily become unemployed and are obliged by conditions within the labour market to undergo vocational retraining in another field of activity.
Students from another Member State have the right to the same treatment as is accorded to students who are nationals of the host Member State with regard to any assistance intended to cover enrolment fees or other costs, relating to access to education. They cannot claim assistance for maintenance costs. (full text)

A person engaged in preparatory training in the course of occupational training must be regarded as a worker if the training period is completed under the same conditions of genuine and effective activity as an employed person. This cannot be invalidated by the fact that the productivity of the trainee is low, that he/she works only a small number of hours per week and receives limited remuneration.
Assistance granted for maintenance and education in order to pursue university studies evidenced by a professional qualification constitutes for the student who benefits a social advantage within the meaning of Union law. In order to retain the status of worker, there has to be a relationship between the previous occupational activity and the studies undertaken. (full text)

The Court ruled that a researcher preparing a doctoral thesis on the basis of a grant contract, must be regarded as a worker according to Union law, if his/her activities are performed for a certain period of time under the direction of an institute forming part of an organisation operating in the public interest and he/she receives remuneration, in return for those activities. The Court confirmed that a private-law association must observe the non-discrimination principle in relation to workers within the meaning of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. (full text)

Articles 7(1)(c) and 24(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC must be interpreted as meaning that a European Union citizen who pursues a course of studies in a host Member State whilst at the same time pursuing effective and genuine employment activities such as to confer on him the status of ‘worker’ within the meaning of Article 45 TFEU may not be refused maintenance aid for studies which is granted to the nationals of that Member State. The fact that the person entered the territory of the host Member State with the principal intention of pursuing a course of study is not relevant for determining whether he is a ‘worker’ within the meaning of Article 45 TFEU and, accordingly, whether he is entitled to that aid under the same terms as a national of the host Member State under Article 7(2) of Regulation 1612/68. (full text)

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