Posted workers

22 January 2020

A posted worker is ‘a person who, for a limited period of time, carries out his or her work in the territory of an EU Member State other than the state in which he or she normally works’. Posting situations raise the issue of the regulation applicable to the employment and working conditions of posted workers.

EU context

European legislation on the posting of workers aims to ensure freedom of services across Europe, while guaranteeing the rights of posted workers. These rights have to be protected throughout the EU, to avoid ‘social dumping’. For this purpose, the Posting of Workers Directive (96/71/EC) stipulates a mandatory core set of terms and conditions of employment to be applied to the posted workers. These include the minimum standards of employment applicable according to the host Member State regulations and regarding: pay, work and rest periods, paid annual leave, health and safety at work, hiring out workers through temporary work agencies, and equal treatment between men and women. The more recent Enforcement Directive (2014/67/EU) provides for new and strengthened instruments to fight and sanction circumventions, fraud and abuses.

Given the developments in labour markets across Europe, discussions have taken place on adapting the regulation to current situations regarding the posting of workers. On 8 March 2016, the European Commission proposed to revise the Directive on the posting of workers with the aim to better balance the protection of workers’ rights and the provision of cross-border services within the context of fair competition. Negotiations on the revised proposal took place between the Council and the European Parliament and resulted in the publication of Directive (EU) 2018/957 on 28 June 2018. The revision introduced changes in three main areas: work and employment conditions, including in situations of subcontracting; regulation of temporary agency work; and rules on long-term postings.


Eurofound’s research on this topic has looked at the situation of posted workers in the European Union and the implementation of the Posted Workers Directive across the Member States. Eurofound’s European Observatory of Working Life (EurWORK) publishes regular articles on issues related to the posting of workers at national and EU level.

Improving data collection

Given the lack of reliable, comparable data on the phenomenon, a new study by Eurofound looks at ways to improve the monitoring of the situation facing posted workers in the EU. It maps existing information sources at the European and Member State levels, and identifies gaps in, and limitations of, data currently available, with suggestions for improving data collection. 

Development of the posting of workers

Previous Eurofound research on posted workers in the European Union examines the development of the posting of workers. It assesses the roles played both by European and national-level regulations on the employment and working conditions of posted workers, as well as the roles played by collective bargaining and social partner initiatives in the field.

Issues of policy concern

Long-standing and current discussions about the posting of workers raise several key issues around, among others topics, remuneration of posted workers, abuse of posting, the relevance of subcontracting liability, as well as availability of data around the itopic.

Research has looked into the pay inequalities experienced by posted workers and the discussions around the minimum standards of employment, including the minimum rates of pay definition. It summarises the views of European and national-level stakeholders on recent debates on implementing the principle of equal pay for posted workers.

With the main objective of Directive 96/71 being to ensure freedom of services across Europe while safeguarding workers’ rights, ensuring a level playing field has become key for businesses and workers, to avoid unfair competition and social dumping. Abusing the posting of workers is part of the practices studied in Eurofound’s research on the fraudulent contracting of work. This issue is particularly discussed in view of regulations and the positions of the social partners in three countries – Belgium, Finland and Italy – and across the three sectors of construction, transport and industrial cleaning.

Given the role played by subcontracting in various sectors and in the context of posting of workers, research has also looked at national regulations on liability in subcontracting processes in the construction sector.

Key messages

  • Assessing the number of posted workers across the EU member states remains particularly challenging and only estimates are currently available at European level. Delimiting the phenomenon is the first issue, as posted workers are defined differently depending on regulations. 
  • Two different application/declaration processes can potentially provide information on posting situations, but each has different objectives and covers different issues. The Portable Document A1 (PD A1) certifies affiliation to the social security system of the sending Member State. Member States may impose an obligation for a foreign service provider to make a declaration to the competent institutions in the host Member State, mainly considering employment aspects. 
  • Very different information is collected in each country, leading to difficulties in comparing data and efficiently monitoring cross-border posting. Moreover, sanctions are not consistently applied.
  • Cross-border exchange of information is also tackled very differently, given the important margin of discretion granted to Member States in the design of the system of declaring posted workers and issuing of the PD A1 form. 
  • Improving data sources to allow for the monitoring of posting is needed to ensure that businesses are competing fairly across Europe and that the labour and social rights of posted workers are recognised. A comprehensive monitoring tool would also be useful to help Member States ensure that they get their dues in social security contributions and taxes, as well as to combat abuse.

Data and resources


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