The Treaty of Lisbon details the social policy objectives: promoting employment, improving working and living conditions, equal treatment of workers, adequate social protection according to need, social dialogue, developing human resources aimed at achieving a high and sustainable level of employment as well as combating exclusion.
In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon gives binding force to the social rights established by law in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The social rights contained in the Charter acquire binding force.
A horizontal social clause is established by Article 9 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. The definition and implementation of the Union's policies and actions must take into account the following social requirements:
- the promotion of a high level of employment;
- the guarantee of adequate social protection;
- the fight against social exclusion;
- a high level of education, training and protection of human health.
Social policy is a shared competency of the European Union. It is firstly the responsibility of Member States.
The European Parliament and the Council may adopt incentive measures to support and complement the actions of Member States in certain areas, such as the fight against social exclusion. They may also adopt minimum requirements in the form of a directive, namely legislation which enables Member States to adopt additional stricter provisions. These directives only concern:
- health and safety of workers;
- working conditions;
- social security and social protection of workers (States remain responsible for defining the fundamental principles of their social security systems);
- protection of workers in the case of termination of their employment contract;
- information and protection of workers;
- collective representation and defence of workers' and employers' interests;
- working conditions for third-country nationals residing legally on EU territory;
- integration of persons excluded from the labour market;
- equality between men and women concerning their treatment in relation to employment.
Implementation of these measures could be carried out by social partners.