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Workers’ Rights in the EU

The EU has created a number of directives and regulations, relating to Workers’ Rights, that have been enshrined in European Law.

Every EU worker has certain minimum rights relating to:

  • health and safety at work: general rights and obligations, workplaces, work equipment, specific risks and vulnerable workers
  • equal opportunities for women and men: equal treatment at work, pregnancy, maternity leave, parental leave
  • protection against discrimination based on sex, race, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation
  • labour law: part-time work, fixed-term contracts, working hours, employment of young people, informing and consulting employees

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=706&langId=en&intPageId=205

For example, the EU’s Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) requires EU countries to guarantee the following rights for all workers:

  • a limit to weekly working hours, which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any overtime
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24
  • a rest break during working hours if the worker is on duty for longer than 6 hours
  • a minimum weekly rest period of 24 uninterrupted hours for each 7-day period, in addition to the 11 hours’ daily rest
  • paid annual leave of at least 4 weeks per year
  • extra protection for night workers
    • average working hours must not exceed 8 hours per 24-hour period,
    • night workers must not perform heavy or dangerous work for longer than 8 hours in any 24-hour period,
    • night workers have the right to free health assessments and, under certain circumstances, to transfer to day work.

There are separate directives on working hours for certain workers in specific transport sectors.

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=706&langId=en&intPageId=206

Other examples of Workers’ Rights include

  • Equal treatment for part-time workers
  • Rights for new mums
  • 18 weeks of parental leave
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Health and safety
  • Protection if your company is bought out
  • Protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality, gender reassignment status, belief, and age.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC)

https://www.tuc.org.uk

have produced a document exploring UK employment rights and the EU

UK employment rights and the EU – Assessment of the impact of membership of the European
Union on employment rights in the UK

which is available at

https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/UK%20employment%20rights%20and%20the%20EU.pdf

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

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A European Health Insurance Card gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.

European Health Insurance Card

The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until your planned return home. Treatment should be provided on the same basis as it would to a resident of that country, either at a reduced cost or, in many cases, for free. For example, in some countries, patients are expected to directly contribute a percentage towards the cost of their state-provided treatment. This is known as a patient co-payment. If you receive treatment under this type of healthcare system, you are expected to pay the same co-payment charge as a patient from that country.

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. It is therefore important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy in place before you travel. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC, and many will waive the excess if you have one.

To be eligible for a card, you must be insured by or covered by a state social security system in any Member State of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Each separate member of a family travelling should have their own card.

Details on how to obtain a card in the UK is available at

http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx

Mobile Phone Roaming Charges

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On 11 September 2013, the European Commission adopted a legislative package for a “Connected Continent: Building a Telecoms Single Market” as part of the Digital Single Market initiative. Part of this initiative is remove the burden of roaming charges.

Details on the Connected Continent legislative package can be found at

https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/node/67489/#roaming

In October 2015, after more than 2 years of negotiations, MEPs voted to end mobile phone roaming charges across the EU (passed into law) which will cease to exist by 15 June 2017. This means that UK mobile phone users will pay the same prices when travelling across EU member countries, as they do at home.

roamingcharges

From April 30 2016 operators are only able to charge a small additional amount to domestic prices up to €0.05 per minute of call made, and up to €0.0114 per minute of call received, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data (excl. VAT)

Footnote:

I noticed that for my own mobile phone PAYG account in the UK prices changed on 23rd March 2016 from

10p per minute for calls, 6p per text message and 20p per day for 20MB of data

to

15p per minute for calls, 5p per text message and 5p per MB of data.

When travelling recently in another EU country (after 30th April) I can verify that prices in that country were set at these (increased) prices, so I can confirm that I am paying exactly the same in the EU as I do in the UK.

EU Topics and Policies

The EU has an interest and/or influence in many different areas, from Human Rights to Transport and Trade.

Useful links describing their activities in these areas are provided by the EU.

If you want to know what the EU is doing in these areas use the following links as a starting point.

Detail on policies on various subjects are available at

http://ec.europa.eu/policies/

Also check information on the work of the EU Commission in their Departments (Directorates-General) and services provided on the EU web-site at

http://ec.europa.eu/about/ds_en.htm

Free Movement of Workers

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Free movement of workers is a fundamental principle of the Treaty enshrined in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and developed by EU secondary legislation and the Case law of the Court of Justice.

EU citizens are entitled to:

  • look for a job in another EU country
  • work there without needing a work permit
  • reside there for that purpose
  • stay there even after employment has finished
  • enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages

EU nationals may also have certain types of health & social security coverage transferred to the country in which they go to seek work.

Free movement of workers also applies, in general terms, to the countries in the European Economic Area: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

People working in some occupations may also be able to have their professional qualifications recognised abroad.

EU social security coordination provides rules to protect the rights of people moving within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Who can benefit from this freedom?

  • Jobseekers, i.e. EU nationals who move to another EU country to look for a job, under certain conditions
  • EU nationals working in another EU country
  • EU nationals who return to their country of origin after having worked abroad.
  • Family members of the above.

References:

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=457&langId=en

Rights as an EU citizen

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Any person who holds the nationality of an EU country is automatically also an EU citizen.

EU citizenship is additional to and does not replace national citizenship. It is for each EU country to lay down the conditions for the acquisition and loss of nationality of that country.

Citizenship of the Union is conferred directly on every EU citizen by the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union entails the right:

  • To non-discrimination on the basis of nationality when the Treaty applies
  • To move and reside freely within the EU
  • To vote for and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections
  • To be protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities of any other EU country
  • To petition the European Parliament and complain to the European Ombudsman
  • To contact and receive a response from any EU institution in one of the EU’s official languages
  • To access European Parliament, European Commission and Council documents under certain conditions
The right to move and reside freely

Citizens of the EU and their family members have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the EU, subject to certain conditions.

This right is conferred directly on every EU citizen by Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

As specified in directive 2004/38, the following rules apply:

  • Article 6: EU citizens can reside on the territory of another EU country for up to three months without any conditions other than the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport;
  • Article 7: To reside in another EU country for more than three months, EU citizens are required to meet certain conditions depending on their status (i.e. worker, student, etc.) and may also be required to meet certain administrative formalities;
  • Article 16: EU citizens can acquire the right to permanent residence in another EU country after legally residing there for a continuous period of five years;
  • Article 3: The family members of EU citizens have the right to accompany or join them in another EU country, subject to certain conditions.

References:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/index_en.htm

A guide to your rights as an EU citizen – Freedom to move and live in Europe

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/index_en.htm

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