EU Commission work programme 2017: what’s in it for the workers?

Let 2017 be better than 2016. More peaceful!’ was a frequently heard wish in the past Christmas period. Nevertheless, 2017 will be most likely the year in which the negotiations for a hard Brexit will be initiated. The year in which the United States under a new president will probably change its view on Europe.  But what will happen on the European mainland? The 2017 Commission work programme encompasses 21 initiatives and 18 Refit proposals evaluating existing regulations. What’s in it for the workers?

In February, the Commission plans to take initiative on the Written Statement Directive. This Directive lays down the employer’s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship. The goal is to adapt this directive to the realities of the new world of work. A consultation of social partners on this initiative will take place. A much debated topic last year was the ‘Pillar of social rights’. In 2017, the Commission aims to finalize work on the Pillar of social rights in the form of a white book for the future of the EU to be presented in March. Finally, the Commission plans an initiative combining legislative and non-legislative proposals on social protection. This initiative will aim to address professional transitions in a persons’ career.

The second-stage consultation of social partners on possible action addressing the challenges of work-life balance faced by working parents and caregivers did - in September 2016 - not result in negotiations on any of the areas which were put forward by the Commission. Therefore, the Commission plans to propose soft law and legal initiatives to improve the work-life balance for working parents in 2017. A first legislative proposal was already presented in 2016 on Occupational Safety and Health at work. More specifically, the package proposed exposure limits or other measures for cancer-causing chemicals. The limits of substances at work to decrease occupational cancer will be enlarged and another package of substances will follow in 2017. This was thus announced already on the 10th of January 2017. Together with this proposal, EU OSH legislation will be reviewed under the Refit programme. The aim is to simplify and reduce administrative burden, while maintaining workers' protection. This modernisation should also support better enforcement on the ground.

In December 2016, the Commission presented the second part of the Labour Mobility Package, being the review of EU rules on social security coordination. The proposal updates the EU rules in the following four areas: unemployment benefits, long-term care benefits, access of economically inactive citizens to social benefits and social security coordination for posted workers. Finally, in 2017 discussions will be continued upon current proposals such as the Posting of Workers Directive, the Accessibility Act, the European Solidarity Corps and the Skills guarantee.

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