The European Commission has recently presented its European Pillar of Social Rights, which contains 20 key principles and rights that it says will support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems.
These principles and rights are structured around three categories: equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion.
In support of these principles, the Commission has also published details of a number of legislative and non-legislative initiatives related to work-life balance, access to social protection and working time.
Balancing Work and Family Life
The proposal on work-life balance sets a number of new or higher minimum standards for parental, paternity and carer’s leave, and includes the new right for fathers to take at least ten working days off around the birth of a child.
It also says that the existing right to four months parental leave can be taken for children up to 12 years of age, compared to the current non-binding guideline on the age of eight years. Parental leave also becomes an individual right for mothers and fathers without a transfer of the four months to the other parent. All of these family related leave arrangements will be compensated at least at the level of sick pay.
Reflecting the Modern Labour Market
In addition to this legislative proposal, the Commission has also launched two social partner consultations. The first consultation relates to modernising the rules on employment contracts to ensure they take into account the new realities and practices on the labour markets. Through the consultation, the Commission wishes to open a debate on the minimum safeguards every worker, including those working in non-standard employment, should receive.
The second consultation relates to access to social protection, and seeks to define possible new rules in this area. The Commission highlights that rights and obligations associated with social protection have been developed over time primarily for workers employed on standard contracts, but don’t take into account the needs of people in self-employment and non-standard employment. The Commission wants to close the gaps and explore ways to ensure that everyone who works has access to social protection coverage and employment services on the basis of their contributions.
Finally, the Commission has adopted a clarification of the Working Time Directive, providing guidance on how to interpret various aspects of this directive in line with a growing body of case law.
UK Position Post Brexit
Following these announcements by the European Commission, the TUC called on the UK Government to ensure UK employment law continues to reflect EU law after Brexit.
“The next Government must guarantee a level playing field after Brexit,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “When EU rights improve, UK rights must improve too. And it must be written into the Brexit deal. Otherwise hardworking Brits will miss out on new protections that EU workers get.”
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