EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Collective agreements and terms of employment

Council Directive 91/533 of 14 October 1991 imposes an obligation on the employer to inform employees in writing of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship, including ‘the collective agreements governing the employee’s conditions of work’ (Article 2(2)(j)(i)). The Commission’s proposal emphasised that it ‘specifically concerns those workers who have neither a written contract of employment nor a letter of appointment explaining the elements of the employment relationship or referring to a collective agreement or any other easily accessible written document’ (Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the initial proposal for a directive (COM (90) 563 final, Brussels, 8 January 1991.

Directive 91/533 imposes an obligation on the employer to provide written information about terms and conditions of employment. The employer unilaterally drafts the document purporting to set out the required information. Its accuracy may be challenged when, in the context of a dispute, the employer produces the written document as evidence of the terms and conditions of employment, since the worker has no input to the written document. Disputes might be avoided if the document itself cites a collective agreement as the source for terms and conditions. The linking of terms and conditions of individual employment with collective agreements is of considerable importance. The Directive provides, therefore, that among the ‘essential aspects of the contract or employment relationship’ to be included in the written document provided by the employer under the Directive are ‘the collective agreements governing the employee’s conditions of work’.


Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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