Last reviewed 19 November 2020

The European Commission has set out details of a proposed directive on adequate minimum wages in the European Union.

With the full text available at, the proposal seeks to ensure that minimum wages are set at an adequate level allowing for “a decent living” wherever people work.

The Commission has been quick to point out that the new directive will not oblige Member States to set minimum wages by law and will not set the level of those wages.

It would, however, expect to see strengthened involvement of the social partners (essentially the employers and trade unions) in statutory minimum wage setting and would require clear and stable criteria for setting and updating statutory minimum wages.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We have seen that for too many people, work no longer pays. Workers should have access to adequate minimum wages and a decent standard of living. What we propose today is a framework for minimum wages, in full respect of national traditions and the freedom of social partners”.

She also pointed out that adequate minimum wages can also help reduce the gender pay gap, since more women than men earn a minimum wage. The proposal also helps protect employers that pay decent wages to workers by ensuring fair competition, the President argued.

Minimum wages already exist in all EU Member States with 21 having statutory minimum wages and six (Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Sweden) relying on collective agreements for minimum wage protection.

The Commission believes that its proposal will close gaps in this provision by setting a framework for minimum standards and promoting collective bargaining on wages in all Member States.

The new directive would also see improved enforcement and monitoring of minimum wage protection established in each country.

The proposal will now be considered and amended by the European Parliament and the Member States and will, of course, come into force long after the UK has left the Union.

It is an indication, however, of the EU’s continued determination to maintain and improve employment standards that the UK negotiators will no doubt be examining closely as the current talks between the two sides near their completion.