In an increasingly diverse world of work, we need to ensure appropriate working conditions for any form of work – regardless of the contractual arrangement – in order to guarantee a fair job for all.
The 2008 EU Directive on temporary agency work establishes the principle of equal treatment, meaning that, as a general rule, temporary agency workers are entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions as workers recruited for the same job directly by the undertaking. However, some derogations may be allowed.
The Directive also obliges EU Member States to review the restrictions imposed on temporary agency work and test whether these are justified to protect temporary agency workers, for reasons of health and safety at work or to ensure the well-functioning of the labour market and prevent any abuse.
In 2019, the EU Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions defined new provisions to cover more of those workers who have adopted new forms of work. It requires certain information to be provided on the obligations for the employment relationship. The Directive is to be implemented by Member States before 2021.
The World Employment Confederation-Europe supported the general intentions of the Directive, while being critical of several provisions. A particularly sensitive point was to ensure more time for employers to provide information on the employment relationship. In this area, important improvements could be reached in the legislative procedure at EU level.
One of the strategic priorities of the European Commission in the area of employment and social affairs is that all workers in Europe should have access to and benefit from fair minimum wages. This initiative on minimum wages builds on the European Pillar of Social Rights. To launch a discussion process on possible EU actions on minimum wages, the Commission launched on 14th January 2020 an EU Social Partners Consultation on challenges related to fair minimum wages in the European Union. The second stage of the consultation was launched in June 2020. WEC-Europe provided contributions in both instances.
The World Employment Confederation-Europe underlined that the private employment services industry supports appropriate working conditions and pay for agency workers, which are already secured via national law and collective labour agreements. The principle of equal treatment and equal pay is applied in all EU countries based on the Directive on temporary agency work and in many countries additional safety nets based on minimum wages for agency workers are already established.
An EU policy intervention in the area of minimum wages should strictly respect the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, while also giving freedom to sectoral social partners to settle minimum wages. It should also take into account that in the agency work industry, a broad range of additional benefits are provided to agency workers based on social innovation, thus by offering new solutions for working, learning and social protection.
Should the topic of minimum wages be addressed at European level, the World Employment Confederation-Europe would recommend to discuss it via the European Semester process, possibly supported by a Council Recommendation defining a general European policy framework for minimum wages. An EU Directive would not be the right instrument to address and cover the diversity of national practices that are in place for minimum wages in Europe. If social partners negotiations on minimum wages are to take place at EU level, these should be held at the level of the cross-industry social partners.
Social innovation practices related to working conditions in the agency work sector have been surveyed as part of a research project conducted by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and the Catholic University of Leuven/HIVA, as part of the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue for temporary agency work.
The research draws up lessons learned from the implementation of these practices and analyses factors for upscaling and replicating them in other sectors. The World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI-Europa also adopted joint recommendations as follow-up of this project to further foster social innovation in Europe.
For further examples of how the private employment industry is improving working conditions, visit our “Social Innovation Stories” database.