New forms of work call for more transparent and predictable working conditions

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The transparent working conditions directive is a real step towards implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights and adapting to the future world of work, says the EESC.

While the flexibility provided by new forms of employment has been a major driver of job creation and labour market growth, with more than five million new jobs generated since 2014, almost 20% of which represent new forms of work, there is now a need to make working conditions more transparent and predictable for all workers.

This was the message of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in an opinion adopted at its May plenary session on the Commission's proposal for a directive on transparent working conditions. The EESC said that the best way of achieving transparency and predictability was through social dialogue and collective bargaining at national level.

The Committee also warned against possible administrative burdens which could fall on employers if some of the directive's provisions are implemented in their current form, and recommended that some of its aspects be clarified and the responsibility for certain issues left to Member States.

The transparent working conditions directive is a great chance to start a social Europe, said Christian Bäumler, rapporteur for the EESC opinion. We want to protect workers in non-standard forms of work, such as platform workers, voucher workers or those on zero-hours contracts.

Mr Bäumler said that on-demand work cannot be maintained as a form of employment without setting an appropriate reference period and appropriate advance notice for the worker. The EESC recommended that employment contracts that provide for on-demand work guarantee a certain number of hours or corresponding payment.

At the same time the Committee called for a proposal that was balanced.

"The current proposal has some unclear provisions that could cause legal uncertainties in the labour market", co-rapporteur Vladimira Drbalová pointed out, adding that some fine-tuning was needed as the proposal was not yet sufficiently well-founded. "Only a balanced, legally sound, unambiguous and sufficiently reasoned proposal will be able to guarantee the necessary convergence and ensure coherent application in the European labour market of the obligations stemming from the proposed directive."

The Commission must ensure there is no undue administrative burden. The work must be kept at a doable level both for small and large companies, with optimal conditions for workers, she stressed.

The EESC recognised the particular situation of natural persons acting as employers, as well as that of micro and small enterprises, and recommended that the Commission and Member States help them meet the obligations arising from the directive.

In this respect, the EESC would like to see some limited flexibility provided for micro and small enterprises, as an expanded information package could prove burdensome for them.

In the EESC's view, the personal scope of the directive should be updated to reflect labour market developments and national practices. The definitions of both worker and employer should be clarified.

Member States must be able to determine, under the social dialogue, who falls within the scope of "worker, the EESC argued in the opinion, adding that domestic workers and fishermen should also benefit from the protection of the directive. The same goes for platform workers, apart from those who are genuinely self-employed and independent.

On the provisions relating to minimum requirements for working conditions, such as the length of the probationary period, minimum predictability of work, restrictions on the prohibition of taking up parallel employment, transfer to another more secure job or a right to cost-free training, the EESC expressed support for the Commission's proposals, while noting that some of the provisions required additional clarification or should be implemented according to national rules and practices.

BACKGROUND:

The Commission's new proposal is a revision of the Written Statement Directive, which has been in force since 1991. The Written Statement Directive regulates an employer's obligation to inform employees of the conditions of their employment contract.  The new proposal is also a follow-up to the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and should complement other EU directives. In the light of the new developments in the labour market and the increase in the number of people with more flexible and less secure jobs, the new proposal aims to establish new rights of transparency for all categories of workers.

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