A fitness check is defined by the European Commission as a comprehensive policy evaluation to assess whether the regulatory framework for a policy sector is fit for purpose. Its aim is to identify excessive administrative burdens, overlaps, gaps, inconsistencies and/or obsolete measures which may have appeared over time, and to help to identify the cumulative impact of the legislation.
The findings of fitness checks will serve as a basis for drawing policy conclusions on the future of the relevant regulatory framework. Fitness checks do not aim to replace more traditional evaluations of individual instruments: these two instruments are meant to be mutually reinforcing, with fitness checks providing a more strategic and global view. Fitness checks sit within the EU concept of smart regulation, defined by the Commission as being about delivering results in the least burdensome way by reducing the administrative load and simplifying existing regulation.
Pilot fitness check initiatives began in four policy areas as part of European Commission's 2010 Work Programme, including employment and social policy. The other policy areas are environment, transport, and industrial policy. In the employment and social policy area, the first focus of the fitness check was on the information and consultation of workers. The legislation in this area dates back to the 1970s and led in 2002 to the adoption of a general, permanent and statutory system of information and consultation at EU level, in the form of Directive 2002/14/EC establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community. The fitness check also covered the information and consultation provisions contained in Directive 98/59/EC on collective redundancies and Directive 2001/23/EC on the transfers of undertakings.
The Commission was of the opinion that given the importance of information and consultation, boosted by the number of company closures and restructurings due to the financial and economic crisis, a fitness check of the current regulatory framework in the area of information and consultation was necessary. It was intended to help identify gaps and overlaps to ensure that the regulation was effective, devoid of unnecessary administrative burdens and up to date. It aimed to build upon an extensive set of studies in this area which will be complemented, where necessary, by additional research and stakeholder consultations.
The results of this fitness check were published in July 2013 in a staff working document (PDF 350 KB), which found that the three Directives are generally relevant, effective, coherent and mutually reinforcing, and that the benefits they generate are likely to outweigh the costs. Nevertheless, the fitness check also noted some shortcomings, such as the fact that a significant share of the workforce is not covered by the provisions, due to the exclusion of small businesses, public administration and seafarers. It also found that there is room for improvement in its application, particularly in countries with less well-developed information and consultation traditions. This could be achieved by promoting an information and consultation culture among social partners, strengthening institutions, promoting agreements on information and consultation, disseminating good practices and raising awareness and ensuring enforcement.
The fitness check sets out a number of possible responses to these challenges. It states that legislative intervention at EU level 'may not be the most appropriate means of tackling all the gaps and shortcomings', focusing rather on social dialogue at different levels and by different actors. It points to the areas most in need of further examination and discussion, which may lead in the future to a consolidation of the three Directives, following a consultation of the European social partners.