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Posted Workers Directive: proposals for reform in the EU and UK

Issue date

In 1996, the EU adopted the Posted Workers Directive. The purpose of this Directive was to improve the protection for migrant workers, who are posted temporarily to work in another member state. Due to the temporary nature of their postings, posted workers do not qualify for full equal treatment rights under the EU free movement principles. 

The Posting of Workers Directive provides posted workers with a minimum core of rights including rights to be paid minimum rates of pay, working time entitlements health and safety and anti-discrimination rights (see Article 3 of the 1996 Directive).  The Directive was designed to prevent social dumping and ensure that employers were not able to use posting arrangements to under-cut national employment standards and pay rates.

Decisions of the European Court of Justice in the Viking and Laval line of cases have seriously limited the level of protection afforded by the 1996 Directive.  In particular, these judgements restricted the ability of governments to introduce national legislation, or for trade unions to negotiate collective agreements, to increase the level of protection for posted workers, which exceed the core rights contained in Article 3(1).  The judgements also raised questions whether national authorities can always require foreign contractors to comply with social standards or collectively agreed terms and conditions set out in a public procurement contracts.  For example, some employers seek to rely on these judgements to argue it is not possible for a government or local authority to require contractors to pay the living wage.  The TUC disagrees with this restrictive interpretation. 

These judgements have proved politically controversial and have created significant industrial tensions across the EU.  As a result of pressure from trade unions and some national governments, the Commission decided to introduce proposals for a Posted Worker Enforcement Directive.

Whilst the Posted Workers Enforcement Directive does not represent an adequate substitute for fuller reforms, the TUC believed that the proposed Directive had the potential to increase compliance with the 1996 Directive and to improve working conditions for posted workers.

For more see uploaded briefing...

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