28 April 2017

It is now 20 years since the "Social Chapter" was annexed to the Maastricht Treaty, eventually leading to the adoption of legislation such as the European Works Councils Directive and the Directive concerning Parental Leave.

In recent years, the European Commission has been aware of criticism that the EU has been focused mainly on business and the economy, at the expense of workers' rights.

It has reacted by introducing a new package - the European Pillar of Social Rights - which sets out the principles and rights that will underpin new legislation in the field of employment policy.

President Jean-Claude Juncker explained: "We have to step up the work for a fair and truly pan-European labour market. As part of these efforts, I will want to develop a European Pillar of Social Rights, which takes account of the changing realities of Europe's societies and the world of work."

The 20 principles and rights enshrined in the Pillar are structured around three categories: equal opportunities and access to the labour market; fair working conditions; and social protection and inclusion.

The first proposal put forward is for a Directive on work-life balance which will include provision for 10 working days of paternity leave when a child is born and 4 months of parental leave paid at sick pay level.

As part of the Social Pillar package, the Commission will also issue guidance on how to interpret various aspects of the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC), based on a growing body of case law.

A consultation will be launched on the possibility of modernising the rules on labour contracts as the Commission is concerned that many workers in the EU still do not receive a written confirmation of their working conditions.