Because the EU is committed to creating not just more jobs but also better jobs through the Lisbon strategy, EU law requires companies to meet a variety of social rules contributing to sustainable development.
To ensure the right of EU citizens to work anywhere in the EU, employers are not allowed to discriminate against nationals from other EU countries when recruiting, making staff redundant or regarding any other working conditions.
EU law prohibits employers from discriminating on the grounds of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Employers are further required to make reasonable accommodation at work for workers with disabilities.
Employers must treat men and women equally, particularly as regards access to employment, working conditions, parental leave, promotion and pay.
Health and safety at work
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy working environment for workers. The EU lays down minimum requirements regarding the protection of safety and health of workers. These include general principles concerning the prevention of occupational risks, the elimination of risk and accident factors, and information and training of workers and their representatives.
The EU actively supports voluntary dialogue between employers and employees, and associations representing them. Employers must consult staff representatives on certain issues, e.g. when planning collective redundancies.
Larger companies operating in more than one EU country are required - at the request of their workforce - to set up a European Works Council to inform and consult employees.
To protect employees' rights but enable employers to stay competitive, the EU is promoting the concept of flexicurity - a combination of flexible labour markets with a high level of job security.
Businesses must meet the minimum rules required by law, but are free to go beyond the minimum legal requirements and become more socially responsible.
The EU's PROGRESS programme promotes more and better jobs and equal opportunities for all. It focuses on anti-discrimination, social protection and social inclusion, employment, working conditions and equality between women and men. Under the programme, €743.25 million will be invested in new studies, awareness raising and events between 2007 and 2013.
The PROGRESS programme works alongside the European Social Fund (ESF), the EU's main financial tool, to implement its employment and social affairs policies, with an annual budget of around €10 billion.
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