Brussels, 26 July 2013
Information and consultation at work: Commission evaluates EU rules
The European Commission has released the results of an evaluation to identify excessive burdens, overlaps, gaps or inconsistencies which may have appeared since the adoption of three EU Directives regarding information and consultation of workers. The policy evaluation, also known as "fitness check", focuses on the collective redundancies Directive, the transfers of undertakings Directive and on the Directive establishing a general framework relating to information and consultation of workers in the EC. The report finds that the three EU Directives are generally relevant, effective, coherent and mutually reinforcing. The benefits they generate are likely to outweigh the costs.
Information and consultation of workers is crucial for anticipating change and managing restructuring properly, in a socially responsible way. It is a fundamental social right, which contributes to easing conflicts, create a more cooperative climate at workplace level, and promote competitiveness.
The fitness check relies on an evidence based approach, covering legal, economic and social aspects. EU/EEA governments and representatives of employees' and employers' organisations were closely associated to the exercise.
Although the evaluation finds the three Directives broadly fit for purpose, it also brings to light a number of shortcomings in their scope and application. As far as the scope is concerned, a significant share of the workforce is not covered by the provisions, due to the exclusion of small businesses, of public administration and of seafarers.
There is also room for improvement regarding the application, particularly in countries with less-developed traditions, by promoting an information and consultation culture among social partners, strengthening institutions, promoting agreements on information and consultation, disseminating good practices, raising awareness and ensuring enforcement.
The 'fitness check' takes the form of a Staff Working Document, which sets out a number of possible responses to the shortcomings of the Directives, on the basis of good practice of meaningful social dialogue at different levels and by different actors. It points to the areas which need further examination and discussion, which may lead in the future to a consolidation of the three Directives following a consultation of the European social partners.
As part of the 2010 Work Programme, the Commission has started reviewing EU legislation in selected policy fields through 'fitness checks' in order to keep current regulation 'fit for purpose'. Pilot exercises began in 2010 in four areas: employment and social policy, environment, transport and industrial policy.
In the area of employment and social policy, a family of three Directives concerning the information and consultation of workers at national/company level were selected:
The three EU Directives implement the fundamental social right to information and consultation and prescribe, in a flexible way, minimum requirements allowing Member States to apply provisions which are more favourable to workers. They can increase trust between management and labour, involve workers in decisions affecting them, protect workers, solve work problems, contribute to increased adaptability and employability, improve staff and company performance, and ensure a more level playing field among companies.
The original Directives on collective redundancies and on the transfer of undertakings date back to the 1970’s. Each Directive has been amended once and later consolidated. The third, general framework Directive is the most recent (2002) and has not undergone any changes.
The evaluation shows that the Directives’ impact and effectiveness depends on the situation prevailing before transposition as well as on several other factors such as: the country and its industrial relations system, the size of the establishment, the culture of social dialogue, the attitudes of management and labour or employees’ support.
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