Employment & Social Affairs


March 2016

European Pillar of Social Rights – consultation on preliminary outline

In September last year EU President Juncker proposed a European Pillar of Social Rights, and in March the Commission has now launched a public consultation to gather views from institutions, national bodies, social partners, civil society, academia and citizens.  The Pillar of Social Rights initiative is targeted at the euro area, while allowing other EU Member States to join if they want to do so.  It will set out a number of principles related to labour markets and welfare systems within the euro area.

The aim of the consultation is:-

  • to make an assessment of the present EU social “acquis” (the body of social rules currently set out in EU primary law)
  • to reflect on new trends in work patterns and societies
  • to gather views and feedback on the principles identified in a preliminary outline of the Pillar.

The preliminary outline groups social rights into three areas:-

  • Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, including skills development and life-long learning and active support for employment, to increase employment opportunities, facilitate transitions between different statuses and improve the employability of individuals.
  • Fair working conditions, setting an adequate and reliable balance of rights and obligations between workers and employers, as well as between flexibility and security elements, to facilitate job creation, take-up and the adaptability of firms, and promoting social dialogue.
  • Adequate and sustainable social protection and access to high quality essential services, including childcare, healthcare and long-term care, to ensure dignified living and protection against risks and to enable individuals to participate fully in employment and more generally in society.
Within these three headings, 20 policy domains have been identified, to which different principles are attached.

If adopted, the Pillar should become a reference framework:-

  • to screen employment and social performance of participating Member States
  • to drive reforms at national level
  • to be a compass for convergence within the euro area.

The online consultation will run until the 31 December 2016. The Commission expects to put forward a final proposal for the Pillar early in 2017.
Link to the Consultation

Remuneration of posted workers
A posted worker is employed in one EU Member State, but sent by an employer on a temporary basis to carry out work in another Member State. In 2014, around 1.9 million European workers were posted to other Member States. The UK had nearly 51,000 posted workers, while 33,000 UK workers were posted in EU countries.

The Commission has proposed a targeted revision of the 1996 rules which would introduce changes in three areas:-

  • remuneration of posted workers (the rules on remuneration applied to local workers will also be granted to posted workers. Remuneration will not only include the minimum rates of pay, as currently required, but also other elements such as bonuses or allowances where applicable).
  • rules on temporary work agencies (national rules apply when agencies established abroad post workers).
  • long-term posting (over 24 months the labour law conditions of the host Member States will be applied, where this is favourable to the posted worker).

European Commission FAQs
EU website on posted workers

February 2016

European Social Progress Index
The draft EU regional Social Progress Index aims to measure social progress for each region as a complement to traditional measures of economic progress. It follows the overall framework of the global Social Progress Index and is based on fifty indicators. The draft has been shared in order to invite feedback on the topics, the indicators and the way these indicators have been combined. A revised version of the Social Progress Index for the European Union will then be released in October 2016.
The draft Index
Comments should be sent to:  

Launch of public consultation on the European Social Fund (2007-2013)
The European Commission has launched a public consultation in the context of ex-post evaluation of the European Social Fund (ESF) during the 2007-2013 programming period.
The consultation seeks feedback from the direct stakeholders as well as from the wider public. The deadline for response is 27 April 2016.
Link to the consultation

January 2016

Publication – Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2015
The European Commission has published the Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) 2015 review. The review highlights employment and social developments in the EU and looks at job creation, labour market efficiency, social protection modernisation and investment in people. It assesses the contribution of entrepreneurship and self-employment to job creation and growth and the need to tackle the difficulties faced by the self-employed and notably, micro and small companies. The annual ESDE review reports on the latest employment and social trends, and reflects on upcoming challenges and possible policy responses. The review underpins the Commission’s initiatives in the employment and social policy field.
The Summary and the ESDE review can be found on the Commission's website.

Consultation on European Disability Strategy
The European Commission has opened a public consultation on the European Disability Strategy (2010-2020) which provides the EU’s approach to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It asks for opinions on what has been achieved, the challenges faced, and how the EU should address them. Contributions are invited from citizens, organisations, public authorities, businesses, academics and other stakeholders. The deadline is 18 March 2016.
More information 

December 2015

European Accessibility Act
The European Commission has proposed a European Accessibility Act, which will set common accessibility requirements for certain key products and services that will help people with disabilities at EU level to participate fully in society.
The products and services covered include:

  • ATMs and banking services,
  • PCs,
  • telephones and TV equipment,
  • telephony and audiovisual services,
  • transport,
  • e-books and e-commerce.
The Commission says that safeguard clauses will be introduced to protect smaller businesses from carrying a disproportionate burden. These clauses take into account the size, resources and nature of the economic operators concerned.
The proposal
Press Release 

Access City Award 2016 for accessible-friendly cities goes to Milan
Milan (Italy) is the winner of the 2016 Access City Award. The Commission commended for its commitment to promoting the employment of people with disabilities and supporting independent living. Its building standards not only support accessibility and usability, but also promote Universal Design standards.

Consultation on the challenges of work-life balance faced by working parents and caregivers
The European Commission has is holding a public consultation on how to improve work-life balance and reduce obstacles to participation in the labour market. The consultation document gives an overview of the main challenges of work-life balance for parents and people with caring responsibilities and takes stock of EU-level measures already in place and invites feedback. This will feed into the Commission’s 'new start' initiative in Work Programme for 2016, which replaces the recently withdrawn proposal to amend the 1992 Maternity Leave Directive. The deadline for response is 17 February 2016.

November 2015

Report on evidence-based practice in social services
The European Social Network (ESN) has been working with the University of Oxford to conduct a review of international databases of evidence-based practice in the field of social work, and to make an assessment of how useful the information they contain may be for senior social services practitioners. It has published a report “Evidence-based practice in social services: an overview from practice and applied research” which addresses policy and practice in social services in selected European countries. The paper starts by defining the concepts of evidence and impact and assessing what sort of impact may be relevant. It includes case studies from Denmark and the Netherlands, which serve as the basis for addressing a number of challenges and suggesting possible ways forward.

Poverty and pensions
The European Commission has examined the risk of poverty of older people across Europe. The brief analysis and accompanying chart can be found as part of the 'Evidence in Focus' series. A full analysis of pensions adequacy across Europe can be found via the Commission webpage.

Contest for apprentices
The EU has launched a #lovemyapprenticeship contest – a photo and video competition running from 26 October to 23 November for apprentices across Europe. The main prize is a two-week trip for a language course to learn English, French, German or Spanish.


Horizon 2020 Social Innovation Prize
The European Commission and European Investment Bank Institute will award a prize of €2 million to whoever can offer the best breakthrough to help meet a problem facing society. The particular problem to be addressed will be decided by an online vote, open until 21st October. The shortlisted challenges are:

Childhood obesity
Ageing population
Integration of immigrants in the labour market
Women-led enterprises growing in numbers and size
Community-led clean energy generation.

The contest is expected to be launched in early 2016.
More information

Commission proposal on long-term unemployment

The European Commission has published proposals on guidelines about how countries can better help long-term unemployed people to return to work. In Europe there are over 12 million people who have been unemployed for over a year. The proposal looks at the services offered to help people re-enter the labour market and draws on best practices gathered by Member States. The aim is to help improve services by ensuring a personalised approach and a clear identification of rights and obligations of the unemployed and the organisations providing support. It identifies three key steps:

  • the registration of long-term unemployed with an employment service;
  • an individual in-depth assessment to identify their needs and potential, at the latest at 18 months of unemployment;
  • offer a job integration agreement to all registered long-term unemployed, at the latest at 18 months.
The proposal will next be discussed by Member States in Council for agreement.
Long term unemployment factsheets, by country, can be found here.
Find out more about the proposal here.

A new direction for EU Maternity Leave Directive discussions
In 2008 the European Commission proposed a revision to the Maternity Leave Directive, increasing compulsory maternity leave to 18 weeks, of which six would have to be taken immediately after childbirth, but the proposal has remained in deadlock. The European Commission has decided to scrap the proposal, and restart the discussion with a new initiative.

Entitled ‘New start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families’, this is a ‘road map’ for a new initiative which includes improvements to the Maternity Leave Directive (“avoiding bringing back issues that clearly caused a deadlock in the negotiations”) but also looks more broadly at matters such as the right to request flexible working arrangements; agreements on parental leave, fixed-term and part-time work; carer’s leave, and equal treatment of men and women.

A public consultation is expected to be part of the preparation process, and will involve representatives of SMEs and micro-businesses, the European Parliament, Member States, NGOs and other stakeholders. After this, the Commission intends to include proposals for the new initiative in its 2016 work programme.
The road map can be found here: Link to document

Report on EaSI funding in 2014
214 was the first year of the new Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI). The Commission has published a short report on its activities. In fact only 44% of the budget for the year (€119.5 million) was used in 2014, many activities were postponed into 2015.

  • Over a third of the overall budget was used for information sharing and mutual learning. The largest individual amount was used to set up the European Network of Public Employment Services.
  • A quarter of the budget was used for analytical activities such as studies, the largest slice of which was for the development of the Classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO).
  • In terms the EURES job mobility portal, Germany heads the number of vacancies published (over 400,000) followed by the UK (nearly 150,000).
  • EaSI also aims to support microfinance and social entrepreneurship, but activities did not take place in 2014 as the Commission has been negotiating with the European Investment Bank on the design of the new Financial Instruments.
  • Around a third of participants in EaSI-funded activities were officers from national, regional, and local government; followed by civil society (20%) and researchers/experts (15%).
To find out more, download the Monitoring Report from the link here.

Policy Brief on Social Impact Measurement for Social Enterprises
The OECD and the European Commission have published this report, which highlights that an understanding and measuring of social impact is a priority for all stakeholders, and especially for public authorities as major funders of social enterprises at a time of budgetary restraint. It includes examples of methods of measurement.

The report can be downloaded here.

Project on Communication for Integration- working towards greater social cohesion
The Council of Europe and EU-funded C4I “antirumours” project uses social networks and viral information channels to disseminate information in order to address myths. One of its main features is to bring together the perspectives of both host communities and migrants. The project is based on the network partnership of 11 European cities.
Project website

Migrant Integration Policy Index analysis for the UK
The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is a tool which measures policies to integrate migrants in all EU Member States and a number of other countries. The Index has recently released its analysis of the UK and places the UK 15th out of 38 countries for migrant integration. The Index information on the UK can be accessed here: http://mipex.eu/united-kingdom.

Vocational education and training Ministers meet in Riga
Ministers responsible for vocational education and training (VET) from EU Member States met in Riga, Latvia in June. They discussed the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, with a focus on how to strengthen the engagement of the private sector. 38 new pledges from companies and other organisations were signed. The companies will make a total of 140 000 apprenticeships and training opportunities available to young people.

Ministers also agreed on the Riga Conclusions on priorities for vocational education and training up to 2020. These are to:

  • Promote work-based learning in all its forms, with special attention to apprenticeships.
  • Further develop quality assurance mechanisms in VET.
  • Enhance access to VET and qualifications for all (with guidance services and validation of non-formal and informal learning).
  • Strengthen key competences in VET curricula and provide more effective opportunities to acquire or develop those skills.
  • Introduce systematic approaches to professional development of VET teachers, trainers and mentors in both school and work based settings.
The full text of the conclusions and priorities is available here
Find out more about the European Alliance for apprenticeships here. 

Support for micro-finance social entrepreneurship
The EU’s funding programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) aims to support micro-finance and social enterprise. An agreement has been reached in June between the European Commission and the European Investment Fund (EIF) for the EIF to provide an “EaSI Guarantee”. This will enable microcredit providers and social enterprise investors work with entrepreneurs they may not have been able to finance previously given the risk considerations. The aim is to increase access to microfinance (loans of up to €25,000), in particular for vulnerable persons and micro-enterprises. Find out more here.

Access City Award 2016
EU cities are invited to participate in the sixth edition of the Access City Award - The European Prize for making cities more accessible to people with disabilities and older people. European cities over 50,000 inhabitants can present activities and strategies designed to make cities barrier-free, better places for everyone to live and work.

At a ceremony during the annual European Day of People with Disabilities Conference in Brussels on 7 December 2015, the European Commission will hand over awards to five EU cities. There will be first, second and third prize plus two special categories:

  • access to work
  • accessible smart cities.
The deadline for applications is 10 September 2015. The selection process has two stages: first at national level and then followed by the European selection. Find out how to apply here.

RegioStars awards 2015 - Integrating in society those at risk of social exclusion
Fit for Work North Wales has been chosen as a finalist in the 2015 RegioStars Awards. The awards aim to identify good practices in regional development and to highlight original and innovative projects which could be attractive and inspiring to other regions.

The ESF-funded Fit for Work initiative is a finalist in the category for “Inclusive Growth: Integrating in society those at risk of social exclusion”. It provides a coordinated, early intervention service to support employees on long term sickness absence. The project used a client-centred approach with a team of dedicated case managers to coordinate tailored packages of individualised support including advice, guidance, employer mediation and access to a range of physiological and psychological interventions. A partnership approach to the support of clients was developed, with case managers, family doctors, therapists and other service providers working together.
Fit for Work
Find all the finalists here

Country Specific Recommendations focus on deficit, housing and skills
Every year the EU publishes Country-specific recommendations (CSRs). These are intended to provide tailored advice to Member States on boosting jobs and growth, while maintaining sound public finances. They focus on what can realistically be achieved in the next 12-18 months. Back in March the UK submitted its annual National Reform Programme and Convergence Programme.

The EU's CSRs for the UK in 2015 and 2016 are to:
  • Ensure effective action under the excessive deficit procedure and endeavour to correct the excessive deficit in a durable manner by 2016-17, in particular by prioritising capital expenditure.
  • Take further steps to boost supply in the housing sector, including by implementing the reforms of the national planning policy framework.
  • Address skills mismatches by increasing employers’ engagement in the delivery of apprenticeships. Take action to further reduce the number of young people with low basic skills. Further improve the availability of affordable, high-quality, full-time childcare.

Increased pre-financing in 2015 for the Youth Employment Initiative made available
On 22nd May the European Commission made a billion euro available for the young unemployed. The Youth Employment Initiative was adopted in 2013 to help tackle youth unemployment in certain regions of the EU. A dedicated budget has been set aside worth €3.2 billion, which requires no co-financing at national level. An additional €3.2 billion comes from the European Social Fund allocations to the Member States.

Many countries have raised the problem that they don't have the national budget necessary to pay advance funding.  The new move puts in place a higher pre-financing rate in 2015 in order to ensure quicker mobilisation of the funds. The pre-financing will be around €1 billion euros (30% of the specific allocation, instead of the original 1-1.5% of the specific allocation.) 

Note: the UK is eligible for funds from the Youth Employment Initiative. It has an allocation of €206 million, with the Inner London, Merseyside, South Western Scotland, Tees Valley and Durham, and West Midlands regions eligible. This will increase the UK’s 2015 pre-financing to €61.8 million.

Find out more about the UK state of play here
Find out more about the changes here

Social Europe: Aiming for inclusive growth. Annual report 2014
The latest report provides an analysis of recent trends in the social situation in Member States and across the European Union. While it finds a more mixed picture across the EU than in preceding years, the social trends identified in around a third or more of all Member States are:

  • increases in the risk of poverty and especially its depth for the overall population;
  • continued rise in the share of the population in (quasi-) jobless households;
  • increasing housing cost overburden rate;
  • declines in real gross household disposable income;
  • increase in the share of the working poor.

The full report, including by-country analyses, can be downloaded here

Publication: monitoring good practices in the areas of employment, social affairs and inclusion
The European Commission has collected information on good practices from across Europe in the areas of employment, social affairs and inclusion. The publication includes nineteen examples of good practice, including a project on green jobs in the UK deemed exemplary as a model which managed to increase the chances of long-term unemployed and low skilled offenders to find a job within the green economy sector.