EPSCO Council addresses the initiatives of the Social Fairness Package.

SW – 12/2018

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met once again this year, agreeing on the following outcomes relevant to statutory social security:

Council Recommendation on access to social protection

The ministers agreed on a Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. The ministers emphasised that the scope of social security systems should be extended to young people with the aim of closing existing formal coverage gaps. The ministers stressed the importance of respecting national competences and the diversity of social security systems in the Member States. 

The Recommendation encourages Member States to:  

  • close formal coverage gaps in social protection by allowing all workers and the self-employed to access social security schemes,
  • promote adequate effective coverage by putting in place measures that allow all workers and the self-employed to build up and utilise social benefits as members of social security schemes,
  • facilitate the transfer of social security benefits between schemes.

The proposal applies to social protection in the areas of unemployment, sickness and health care, maternity and paternity, invalidity, old-age and survivors’ benefits and accidents at work and occupational diseases. In contrast to the original Commission proposal (see article 3/2018), the Member States are recommended to provide formal coverage to the self-employed, at least on a voluntary basis. The Commission’s proposal recommended compulsory insurance for the self-employed, with the exception of unemployment benefits.

The Recommendation is likely to be formally put in place mid-next year. Prior to this happening, further procedural steps at national level are necessary in Germany and the Czech Republic so that the Recommendation can also be approved at European level.

European Labour Authority

The social affairs ministers agreed on a common position on the Commission’s proposal to establish a European Labour Authority (see article 3/2018).

The ministers support the proposal and its goal of strengthening cooperation between Member States in the areas of worker mobility and social protection. The ministers emphasised that the proposal was a further step towards completing the EU single market, while at the same time improving worker mobility and European social policy.

They stressed that the main challenges in the future include achieving an appropriate balance between the tasks of the Authority and national competences, as well as the functioning of the mediationmechanism. 

In its position, the Council proposes that the name ‘European Labour Agency’ should be used instead of ‘European Labour Authority’.

The Council position states that the ELA should in particular:

1.   facilitate access to information on rights and obligations concerning cross-mobility for workers, employers and national administrations,

2.   support coordination between Member States in the cross-border enforcement of relevant Union law, including facilitating concerted and joint inspections,

3.   mediate between national authorities in order to resolve cross-border disputes,

4.   facilitate cooperation between relevant Union and Member State stakeholders in order to find solutions to labour market disruptions affecting more than one Member State,

5.   support cooperation between Member States in tackling undeclared work.

As opposed to the Commission’s original proposal, the Council’s position no longer provides for the tasks and bodies of the Administrative Commission for the Coordination of Social Security Systems to be transferred to the European Labour Authority. This was one of the main criticisms from the umbrella associations of Germany’s social security system, particularly because there are fears that it would result in a loss of expert knowledge and the growing trust between the Member States in the committees of the Administrative Commission (see article 8/2018). 

The European Parliament’s Committee for Employment and Social Affairs adopted its report on the Commission’s proposal at its meeting on 26 November. The Committee’s report also does not provide for the committees of the Administrative Commission to be transferred to the ELA. On the basis of the report, the plenary session of the European Parliament voted in favour on its position for interinstitutional negotiations at its meeting on 11 December. 

The Austrian Presidency of the Council ends on 31 December 2018. The Romanian Minister for Labour and Social Justice has already confirmed his support for the establishment of the European Labour Authority. The Romanian Presidency now will conduct informal trilogues with the European Parliament and the Commission in order to complete the legislative process.