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Global employment briefing: European Union, October 2015

  • Europe


    Court expands discrimination law
    The CJEU has ruled that EU law covers indirect discrimination by association - a decision which expands the reach of discrimination law. It decided that an individual may claim indirect discrimination under the EU Race Directive by means of association with a group that is disadvantaged, even if the individual is not of the same ethnic or racial group. In this case, the individual lived in a predominantly Roma district, but was not herself Roma, and suffered the same less favourable treatment as the Roma in relation to electricity metering. While not an employment case, this case impacts on workplace discrimination law, for example, if national law does not conform with this decision.

    Travel time decision impacts employers across the EU
    The ECJ has ruled that for certain workers who do not have a fixed place of work, travel between home and the first and last assignments of the day counts as working time. The ruling does not mean workers must be paid for travel time but shift arrangements may need to be changed to comply. It could be argued that the ruling does not apply to all field-based workers.

    Must temporary agency workers be ‘temporary’?
    The EU Temporary Agency Workers Directive regulates the use of agency workers across member states. Some EU countries have provided a maximum time for agency workers to be assigned to the end-user, for example, to protect permanent workers from having their jobs filled by agency workers on ‘permanent’ assignments and to protect agency workers from less favourable treatment. However, many countries do not time-limit agency workers in this way. As such, a recent complaint to the EU Commission that Germany had failed to correctly implement the Directive, because it did not have time restrictions on the use of agency workers, has been followed with interest given the potential impact in other EU countries.

    To the relief of many, the Commission rejected the complaint on the grounds that the Directive does not provide for any limitation of the permanent use of temporary agency work and, as a result, there is no requirement for member states to fix time limits to comply with the Directive.

    New work life proposals from the EU Commission
    The Commission has published a ‘roadmap’ setting out policy options to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families. This follows their decision this summer to withdraw the 2008 draft Maternity Leave Directive, given the fundamental disagreement between the Parliament and Council on issues such as the level of EU maternity pay.

    The Commission proposals include taking legislative action to provide the right to request flexible working for carers and parents, updating the Parental Leave, the Fixed-term work and the Part-time work Directives, strengthening maternity protection, introducing carers’ leave and reviewing whether to provide for paternity leave. It also considers whether the objectives can, instead, be achieved through non-legislative routes. Whatever the proposals, the Commission will be conducting consultations and inviting the social partners (representatives of both sides of industry at EU level) to negotiate an agreement in this area. As such, we could be many months, probably years, from seeing new EU legislative proposals in this area.

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