30 years of Community integration in the area of employment
Since Spain signed the act of accession to the then European Economic Community, on June 12, 1985, it has undergone a huge economic, social and political transformation, and Spanish social welfare overall has vastly improved.
Over these last 30 years, the main objectives of social and employment policies in the current European Union have been to achieve a high level of employment and strong employee welfare, to improve living and employment conditions and safeguard social cohesion.
To this end a series of directives have been prepared through which it has been possible not only to harmonize the legislation of the Member States in the areas covered by the Treaty on European Union, but also to bring law into line with social reality at any given time. For example, to combat the increase in different types of contracts, it became mandatory for employers to inform their employees of the applicable employment conditions (Directive 91/533/EEC). In order to combat discrimination among certain groups and favor equal treatment for other workers, several directives were signed on fixed-term employment (Directive 1999/70/CE), part-time contracts (Directive 97/81/EC) and temporary agency work (Directive 2008/104/EC). Also with a view to protecting workers’ rights, directives were approved to introduce measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (Directive 89/391/EEC), on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (Directive 2006/54/EC), or the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer (Directive 2008/94/EC).
Of particular importance is the recognition of the right to free circulation, which includes not only the right of EU citizens and their families to circulate and reside freely in the EU, but also to work without a permit. Rather than instrumenting this principle of free circulation as a general principle, specific measures and prohibitions were created in the area of employment. In this regard, the European Constitution sets forth the prohibition on all forms of discrimination on grounds of nationality with respect to employment, remuneration and other employment conditions, and in relation to the coordination of employee welfare systems in Europe, it has been established that all periods taken into account by the various national legislations are to be considered in aggregate for the purposes of acquiring and retaining the right to employee welfare benefits and for the calculation of such benefits.
The progress of Spain’s integration in the EU to date is patently obvious, but there is still a long way to go and in the next few years it is necessary to focus on, among other aspects, reducing unemployment and eradicating undeclared work.
Two EU initiatives should be underscored in this regard:
- Firstly, in order to reduce the high level of youth unemployment in Spain—which in 2014 was 51.8% and in the first quarter of 2015, 51.4%—the European Alliance for Apprenticeships was launched. A Youth Guarantee Recommendation which seeks to facilitate access by all young people under 25 to the employment market has been approved, and in Spain this has taken the form of the Youth Entrepreneur strategy approved in February 2013 by the Ministry of Employment and Social Security.
- In addition, another aspect that the EU has focused on is the fight against undeclared employment, an area in which various Member States have recently started cooperating. The aim is to create a common framework to fight against employment fraud in the European Union, establishing a broad range of measures consisting of tax incentives, inspections and fines and, in particular, the creation of a European platform to coordinate inspections and exchange data so that States can cooperate in the fight against fraud.
Spain’s accession to the EU has undoubtedly led to numerous advantages for Spaniards. However, there is still a need to harmonize national legislations even further, without forgetting that a society and economy that are continually changing need to be constantly reviewed and brought into line with the times, always with the common objective of encouraging peace, sustainable progress and the well-being of citizens.
Garrigues Labor and Employment Department