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Employment and workers' rights  

Maintaining social programmes and workers' rights

Parliament has fought since 2009 to support those hardest hit by the economic and financial crisis, by ring-fencing social and welfare funds up to 2020 and helping people to move around the EU.

MEPs led the initiative for the Youth Guarantee Scheme to train or employ youngsters.

They supported people working in other countries, ensuring that professional qualifications are recognized across the EU and that workers' pay and conditions do not suffer when they are posted abroad. They pushed through the flagship ERASMUS+ scheme providing scholarships for young people abroad.

One of the EP's main concerns was to help improve conditions for working parents and pregnant women at work, as well as to boost the number of women in management.

It also improved health and safety at work for bus and truck drivers and for workers exposed to electromagnetic radiation.


1. EU aid for redundant, self-employed and temporary workers and help for jobless youngsters

Parliament stopped the axe from falling on a number of key social programmes funded by the EU. It called for European Social Fund (ESF) money to make up about a quarter of the EU's regional aid funding for 2014-2020. It insisted that aid for redundant workers must continue after 2013.

It succeeded, in the teeth of opposition from some member states, in saving the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (which replaces the EU's former food distribution programme and which some member states had wanted to scrap). It also reinstated the billion euros the Commission had originally proposed to cut, ensuring that the scheme's funding remains at €3.5 billion.

Thanks to Parliament, regional aid money from the European Globalization Adjustment Fund will be extended to new groups of workers, such as the self-employed and those with temporary contracts, under new rules agreed with member states. Parliament also made sure that three existing programmes, the Progress programme for employment and inclusion, the European Employment Services (EURES) fund and the Microfinance Facility, under the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation, will continue.

Youth Guarantee Scheme

It was MEPs who first proposed the Youth Guarantee schemes across the member states, agreed by heads of state and government, to ensure that no young person in the EU goes without a job, education or training for more than four months. These schemes should be eligible for funding from the European Social Fund.


2. Working and studying abroad

Parliament was determined to help EU citizens move freely between the member states for purposes of work or study. It adopted new rules on the recognition of professional qualifications and proposed the creation of an online card containing information on qualifications and experience.

MEPs pressed for the implementation of new laws to improve the terms of employment of workers posted to another EU country. The aim is to prevent social dumping and to fight the creation of “letter box” companies.

European employers and their foreign workers can benefit from a “single permit” serving as a combined residence and work permit that will cut red tape and simplify procedures for both migrant workers and their employers. The national authorities of each country keep the power to decide whether to admit non-EU workers and how many to admit.

Parliament passed legislation to boost labour mobility in the EU by banning discrimination and curbing unfair treatment of migrant workers in Europe.

It also worked very hard throughout the term to persuade member states that people should be able to take their occupational pension rights with them when they move to work in a different member state.

Parliament fought for the new ERASMUS+ programme for youth, education and sport, which merges all existing EU programs in education, training and youth and adds a new sports section. The new programme will have a budget of €14.7 billion (a 40% increase from current spending levels) and more than four million young people should enjoy greater mobility and cooperation abroad thanks to the new programme.


3. Working parents and women in management

MEPs voted to extend maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks with full pay, with some flexibility for countries which already have some form of family-related leave. They called for an entitlement to two weeks of paid paternity leave. They also approved rules banning the dismissal of pregnant workers and giving them an entitlement to return to the same or an equivalent post.

Parliament adopted legislation aimed at increasing the proportion of women in senior management positions and put forward a plan to get 40% of women into boardrooms by 2020. MEPs called for transparent, open and fair selection procedures and mandatory sanctions if companies fail to follow the correct selection procedure.


4. Health and safety

MEPs helped to improve health and safety at work. Self-employed bus and lorry drivers have been brought under the same rules on working hours as drivers who work for companies, thanks to Parliament, which cited health and safety and road safety concerns plus the need for fair competition in the road transport sector.

MEPs also passed a law to improve the safety of workers exposed to high risks of radiation from electromagnetic fields, for example people working in heavy industries such as steel or metal processing and people working long hours close to television or radio broadcasting stations, radar installations or mobile phone pylons. The law sets limit values and obliges employers to assess the risks of exposure and take steps to reduce them.