As a concrete step towards implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU Commission has adopted a proposal for a Council Recommendation directed at the Member States on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. The proposal was published on 13 March 2018 as part of the Social Fairness Package.
Social protection for non-standard workers and the self-employed
The aim of the Commission’s proposal is to ensure adequate access to social protection. It should be made certain that progress is not partial or uneven but is ensured across groups, social protection branches and Member States. This creates a more level playing field in the internal market.
The Commission is encouraging Member States to allow workers in non-standard forms of employment and the self-employed to join social security schemes. The Member States should also ensure that these workers can build up and claim adequate benefits. Another focus of the Recommendation is on the ability to transfer social security benefits when changing to a different form of employment. Furthermore, social security systems and rights should become more transparent.
The Commission's proposal makes specific reference to social protection related to employment including social security schemes for sickness and healthcare, old-age, accidents at work and occupational diseases, paternity, disability and unemployment.
In order to guarantee effective social protection, the Commission recommends that the Member States make contributions to social protection proportionate to the contributory capacity of non-standard workers and the self-employed.
Solutions must now be found at the national level for how to implement these recommendations and to ensure adequate protection for all workers in all forms of work. However, this must also safeguard the sustainability of social security systems and take into account traditions, policy preferences and economic performance. This will be even more important as the number of people in non-standard employment and self-employment continues to grow due to new forms of work and the digitalisation of the world of work.
At the Social Summit in Gothenburg in November 2017, the Council, the European Parliament and the EU Commission jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, thereby expressing their commitment to work together to implement the non-binding principles contained in the Pillar.
Principle 12 of the Pillar states that ‘regardless of the type and duration of their employment relationship, workers, and, under comparable conditions, the self-employed, have the right to adequate social protection’.
Monitoring and implementing the recommendations
In its Communication on the European Pillar of Social Rights, which the Commission also presented as part of the Social Fairness Package, the Commission reiterated the importance of the European Semester as an appropriate tool for monitoring the implementation of the Pillar. The principles of the Pillar will be taken into consideration when monitoring, comparing and assessing the progress made, and a new Social Scoreboard will be used to screen performance. The Commission also wants to provide technical assistance to help with benchmarking and the exchange of good practices.
In January 2018, the German Social Insurance (DSV) submitted comments as part of the Commission’s consultations. In its comments, the DSV emphasised that it would be especially helpful to promote the exchange of information and experiences regarding challenges and ongoing processes in the Member States, as well as to provide information on good practices to assist the Member States.
The proposal will now be submitted to the Council. The Heads of State and Government will discuss the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights on 22-23 March 2018.
Further information on the Social Fairness Package and access to social protection can be found here.