EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Restructuring: support measures for affected workers

  • Observatory: EMCC
  • Topic:
  • Employment and labour markets,
  • Date of Publication: 11 May 2010

John Morley

This study provides a comparative overview of the extent of support available for workers directly affected by restructuring. It lists the financial and other supports available for workers who lose their jobs as a result of restructuring plus an indication of how important collective agreements are.

Download the full report in Excel format [161 kb]

Nature of support available

There are both common features, and significant variations, in terms of the approach and support available across Member States as regards the role of government and public institutions, as well as the practices and powers of employers and trade unions or other representative bodies.

In terms of legislation, the common thread is provided by EU legislation on collective dismissals, and on information and consultation, that has been developed over more than three decades. In some Member States, notably Denmark, the social partners rather than the government have the first responsibility for ensuring its implementation.

With regards to other forms of support and intervention, arrangements differ somewhat, notably between countries where social partner relationships are long established and those where they are not.  While such differences continue to persist to some extent, there is nevertheless a general convergence across the Union towards a model in which appropriate support - financial, practical and professional - is available to those adversely affected by change and restructuring. Public authorities play an important role in supporting and promoting the development of new employment opportunities in their localities.

Recent changes in support measures

The current economic and financial crisis has, however, brought significant change of focus. In periods of strong growth - in the late 1990s and 2003 onwards - the emphasis from the employee and trade union side had been on seeking to address gaps in the coverage or enforcement of labour market legislation with respect to restructuring. Governments at all levels, along with employers, were looking for ways to promote new employment opportunities and competitiveness, including through the transfer of production from the west to the east of the Union in order to benefit from lower wage costs.

Today the emphasis has shifted to strengthening or developing support measures that can avoid dramatic downturns in economic activity being translated immediately into large scale redundancies. This is being primarily pursued through arrangements at company level, often with government financial support, that have extended the possibilities for short-time working, leave breaks, or other arrangements that reduce both hours of work and pay while retaining the link between employer and employee that would be lost if those affected were declared redundant.

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