Public authorities in the EU have no free hand to change the terms and conditions of employees they inherit when taking over a private sector organisation, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
It said when the public services adjust salaries by time served, a new employee's working record for their former private employer should be taken into account.
A failure to do this would "be contrary to the spirit" of EU directive 77/187/EEC on the safeguarding of employees' rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, ruled ECJ judges.
The case was brought by a Luxembourg civil servant whose private training agency had been taken over by the ministry of education, training and sport.
The government re-employed her, but dumped her at the bottom of its pay scale, wiping out 37% of her salary.
It was wrong "to treat an employee taken over from the transfer without taking length of service into account," said the ECJ.