Posted workers in the EU

Posted workers, what's new?

On the 21st of March 2012, the European Commission published new proposals on the issue of posted workers. A new enforcement directive is proposed to complement the Council Directive 96/71/EC on the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services which addressed the problem of the growing number of workers posted by enterprises to work temporarily in another Member State. The Danish Presidency also states that a proposal to strengthen the enforcement of the directive is a priority.

According to the European Commission, 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’. See the full definition from the European Industrial Relations Dictionary.

In the past few years, there has been renewed focus at EU level on the issue of posted workers, due to the judgements by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Viking (127Kb PDF) (EU0706029I, EU0605029I), Laval (137Kb PDF) (EU0801019I, SE0801019I, SE0706029I) and Rüffert (99Kb PDF) (EU0805029I) cases. In these cases, the ECJ essentially ruled that the EU principles governing the free movement of goods and services, the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide cross-border services should not be impeded by industrial action aiming to ensure that posted workers receive collectively-agreed terms and conditions and the inclusion of collectively-agreed terms in procurement contracts.

The publication of these proposals is a step in the delivery of the Commission's promised proposals to clarify the implementation of the directive. It stated that any new initiative will: ‘clarify the legal obligations for national authorities, businesses and workers on the Directive’s implementation … improve cooperation between national authorities, ensure effective enforcement through sanctions and remedial action, and prevent abuse.’

Eurofound has carried out research and published regular articles in the area of posted workers over a number of years. Some relevant links can be accessed below:

Eurofound reports

  • Posted workers in the European Union (2010)
    This report examines the extent of the phenomenon of the posting of workers, the roles played both by European and national-level legislation in determining the employment and working conditions of posted workers and the roles played by legislation and collective bargaining – and how these two domains interplay.
  • Liability in subcontracting processes in the European construction sector
    Against a backdrop of increased European and national policy attention regarding this highly sensitive issue, Eurofound has conducted a pioneering piece of research by analysing existing national legislation on liability in subcontracting processes in the construction sector. The report underlines the significant differences that exist between the various national liability regulations in place in the eight Member States under consideration. The research results are highly specific to each national situation and few elements are transferable.

EU level

  • Danish Presidency sets out social and employment objectives
    The Danish government, which holds the Presidency of the European Council for the first six months of 2012, has set out its main priorities in the field of employment and social affairs, and good progress is expected. They include strengthening the enforcement of the posted workers directive, progression of the proposal for a directive on equal treatment outside the workplace and the proposal to amend the directive on electromagnetic waves to protect specific workers.
  • ETUC sets out priorities for 2011–1014
    At its congress in Athens in May 2011, ETUC presented its manifesto for 2011–2014, setting out its work priorities for that period in response to the financial crises in several EU Member States. ETUC will also demand that fundamental social rights take precedence over economic freedoms, and wants to enshrine this into a social progress protocol in European treaties. It also wants this to be included in any revision of the posted workers directive.

National level

  • Workers benefit from changes in work legislation and social security
    From 2012 a set of new provisions have come into effect in Finland that, among other things, will improve the position of temporary agency workers. The Posted Workers Act (141Kb PDF) has also been modified so that the same minimum terms and conditions will apply to temporary agency workers sent to other companies or establishments.
  • New agreement to combat social dumping
    A collective agreement by Danish social partners in the construction sector has introduced measures to combat social dumping. The few recent studies on social dumping in Denmark show that posted workers are likely to suffer wages and working conditions significantly below collective agreement standards.
  • New law on posted workers
    A new law affecting employees who come from companies based outside Luxembourg to work in the Grand Duchy has come into force. The Duchy had been criticised in a 2008 European Court of Justice ruling for posted worker regulations that interpreted European Commission and Council of Europe directives too rigidly.
  • New national minimum wages for care workers
    On 1 August 2010, new national minimum wages for care workers came into force in Germany. The employees covered will be entitled to an hourly minimum wage of €8.50 in western Germany, including Berlin, and €7.50 in eastern Germany. The minimum wages, declared binding under the Posted Workers Act, will affect between 520,000 and 560,000 caregivers out of a total of 810,000 care workers and will apply to all employees regardless of the country of origin of their employer.