The European Commission is particularly concerned about strengthening the rights of workers in non-standard employment. This was made clear in the European Pillar of Social Rights published on 26 April. As such, it is looking at a fundamental revision of the Written Statement Directive (Directive 91/533/EEC). The Commission’s first step was to launch a consultation of the Social Partners.
The Directive gives workers the right to be notified in writing of the essential aspects of their employment relationship at commencement of employment or, at the latest, two months afterwards.
The Directive has two main objectives:
- to better protect workers from being ignorant of their rights, because only if a worker is informed of the essential content of the employment relationship, can they exercise their rights accordingly.
- to create a more transparent labour market by ensuring that the working conditions for a specific group of workers are easily recognisable (for example, the general working conditions for health workers).
The Member States may stipulate that the Directive does not apply under certain circumstances, for example, if an employment contract is concluded for a period not exceeding one month or weekly working hours do not exceed eight hours. Exceptions can also be made for casual work or other special forms of work; however, only where there are objective reasons for why the Directive should not be applied in these cases.
In Germany, the Directive is implemented by the Nachweisgesetz (Working Conditions Notification Act).
Why does the EU Commission believe that a revision is necessary?
According to the Commission, there are two key, interlinked challenges that need to be addressed as part of the revision.
First, there needs to be a discussion on how to guarantee that all workers are informed of their working conditions in written format and a timely manner as this does not appear to be the case in all Member States (‘better information for workers’). Second, there should be upward convergence towards equal access to a number of important rights for all workers. This is particularly important for precarious working relationships because rapidly changing labour markets mean that it is no longer the case that all workers have the same basic rights.
The European Commission believes that this is leading to increasing polarisation of the labour market and a growing proportion of workers with temporary or non-standard contracts which do not provide them with adequate social protection (‘establishing minimum requirements with regard to workers’ rights’).
What needs to be done?
In order to improve the effectiveness of the Directive, the Commission sees four broad areas in which appropriate measures should be put in place as a response to the evaluation’s findings. These are: expand the scope of application of the Directive; extend the ‘information package’; modify the means of redress and sanction; and reduce the two-month deadline for informing workers.
The Commission also plans to broaden the objectives of the Directive. There have already been several comments resulting from the debate on upward convergence of workers’ rights, which was initiated by the European Parliament’s Resolution on the European Pillar of Social Rights from 19 January 2017. Thus, the goal is to introduce legislation that:
- is flexible enough to be future-proof,
- is not bound to one particular form of employment,
- provides a minimum level of fair working conditions which apply to all employment contracts.
The Commission’s intends to propose a revision of the Directive by the end of the year, which takes into consideration the comments and suggestions of the Social Partners.
The Consultation Document is available here