Posted workers

24 July 2019

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.

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 work

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.

Key contributions

Updating its 1999 report on posting in Europe, Eurofound’s 2010 report 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.

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 and the relevance of subcontracting liability.

A recent review 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, Eurofound has also carried out an analysis of national regulations on liability in subcontracting processes in the construction sector.

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