European Commission labour law paper receives mixed reaction from UK employers’ groups

Employers’ groups in the UK have greeted a European Commission (EC) Green Paper on employment law with mixed reactions.

The paper will ask member states, social partners and other stakeholders how labour law at EU and national level can help the job market become more flexible and secure.

Launching the paper, Vladimir Spidla, EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, said: “These more flexible arrangements are vital to confronting the effects of globalisation and ageing in our labour markets.”

Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, said the paper was a welcome step in the right direction. “It recognises that EU labour markets need to become more flexible to raise employment and provide economic growth,” she said.

But she expressed concern that the EC was still considering the possibility of further employment legislation, particularly dealing with agency workers.

The Green Paper includes a specific focus on the need for additional regulations to protect agency staff and all workers in ‘triangular relationships’.

“Bowing to union demands for restrictions on flexibility ignores the fact staff value the options that flexible working offers,” Anderson said.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which represents the UK recruitment industry, called for the EC to “get real” and recognise the diversity of employment law in Europe.

Marcia Roberts, REC chief executive, said: “On the one hand, this paper recognises the valuable contribution of flexible labour markets to job creation. On the other, it insists on criticising the very contractual arrangements that make this flexibility possible.

“Rather than praising our dynamic labour market, the EC continues to pick away at a system that works, rather than assisting countries with high unemployment.”

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