EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Proof of employment

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Council Directive 91/533 imposes an obligation on the employer to inform employees about their employment status.

On 18 June 2009, the European Parliament and the Council approved the final text of Directive 2009/52/EC (760Kb PDF) on minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. Article 4 of the directive obliges employers to keep available for inspection a copy or record of the residence permit, or other authorisation for a worker’s stay in a Member State, for the duration of their employment. Employers must also notify the competent authorities of the date when employment began. If these conditions are met, they are not liable for any infringement of the regulations unless they were aware that the documents presented were false.

Council Directive 2004/38/EC (188Kb PDF), which provides for the free movement of Member States’ citizens throughout the European Union and their right to be economically active, gives such workers an automatic right to a residence permit in any other Member State when they present an identity card and proof of employment.

The initial EU intervention on the issue of proof of employment was intended to combat uncertainty about the legal status of new forms of work by establishing some means of proving the existence of an employment relationship. The Explanatory Memorandum which accompanied the initial proposal for a Council Directive on proof on an employment relationship (555Kb PDF) states:

The provision of a written declaration relating to a form of proof of an employment relationship is designed to clarify the legal position of employees who are not covered by a written employment contract or letter of appointment, and, in particular, to give them a better idea of when, where and for whom they are supposed to be working, and, more generally, to give them written proof of the essential elements of this relationship.

The European Commission expressed the view that this would help to ensure the greater transparency of the labour market, and emphasised in the proposal 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’.

See also: contract of employment; employee; employment relationship; free movement of citizens; free movement of workers; migration; mobility of workers; occupational mobility; undeclared work; worker.


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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