April 2019

The UK’s future skills-based immigration system
Through a series of events and advisory groups being held during 2019, the government will be engaging with stakeholders from all sectors as well as industry representatives, to gauge their views on its plan for a skills-based immigration system. The new immigration system will be implemented in a phased approach from January 2021. For more information about the government’s engagement plan click here.

Changes needed at Home Office post-Brexit to manage migration says Institute for Government report
The Institute for Government (IfG) has published a report on its critical analysis of the Home Office’s management of migration post-Brexit. The report outlines several critical problems to be addressed including a previous use of unrealistic targets, a complicated and ineffective internal structure, the lack of effective scrutiny and a worrying level of disconnect between how policy is formulated and ministers’ expectations. In response, the IfG questions if the Home Office is in fact the right department to manage migration post-Brexit given the problems outlined and goes as far as to describe it as a ‘control’ organisation rather than a ‘facilitating’ one. The UK will have a greater flexibility to manage migration post-Brexit and the report also recommends that Annual Plan be published by the government to make its year-to-year management of migration more transparent.

Social Agenda: It’s all about skills
This edition of the Social Agenda features an in-depth interview with the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen. The Commissioner is calling for a new education culture to prepare people for the new world of work as a result of digitalisation, globalisation and demographic ageing. She states that delivering the Skills Agenda is about promoting lifelong learning, creating a new and positive perception of vocational education and training and collaborative working between education institutions, businesses and social partners.

In addition, the publication features the latest news on a series of proposals that are going through the final stages of the EU decision-making process including: increased accessibility for people with disabilities; improving the work life balance parents and carers; transparent and predictable working conditions; increasing the list of recognised cancer-causing chemicals to better protect workers and, social protection for all.

Employment and social developments in Europe: Record number of people in employment, but more investment in skills needed
This edition of the Commission's Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) Quarterly Review highlights an increase in the number of people in work and the number of hours worked. However, growth is unequal with some Member States having continued labour shortages and others, no economic growth. 

March 2019

The European Parliament has voted to increase the EU budget for migration and asylum and for direct funding for local and regional authorities
The European Parliament has voted to back the renewed Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) for 2021-2027 which has an increased budget of more than 50% than the previous financial framework. MEPs also voted in favour of the new Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) and to reinforce the existing Internal Security Fund (ISF).

The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) calls this vote a “victory for towns and regions” particularly as the European Parliament wants funds to be allocated directly to local and regional authorities to integrate migrants, in terms of social and educational support, healthcare and housing. In addition, the CEMR calls on the European Parliament to work with local governments to define national migration strategies and calls on the European Council and the Commission to back the Parliament’s decision.

European Commission’s 2019 annual report on equality between women and men in the EU
To mark International Day for Women, the European Commission has published its annual report on gender equality in the EU stating that “Europe ranks among the safest and most equal places for girls and women in the world (and that) the number of women in employment has reached historically high levels in the EU” however, the Commission notes that whilst “Europe is making progress, (it) must speed up change”. The report states that despite the progress made, more needs to be done to address gender gaps in employment, especially in hours worked and equal pay and the under representation of women in decision-making positions. For an overview of the work that the Commission is doing to promote gender equality click here

European Policy Centre paper: Integrating refugees into the labour market: How can the EU better support employers?
The European Policy Centre (EPC) has published a study on the impact of migration on reception and integration services across the EU, the measures that the EU has taken to promote the integration and fair treatment of refugees and the actions needed to improve access to the labour markets for refugees. The paper identifies three key challenges to access faced by refugees and employers alike: the lengthy and cumbersome process of qualification recognition; the insufficient number of language and job-specific training opportunities and the lack of coordination amongst public authorities. As a result, the EPC study recommends that the European Commission “engages in serious dialogue with European employers” and encourage joint working between national authorities and employers to create an “enabling environment” so that policies can be established to address employers’ specific concerns so that they can help to bridge the gap between the initial reception of refugees and their sustainable inclusion into the host society.

The EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee takes evidence from the Immigration Minister, 13th March 2019, Parliament TV
The House of Lord’s Select Sub-Committee on EU Home Affairs has questioned the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, on the UK’s post-Brexit asylum and immigration policy and on the future of EU migration to the UK for work. For more information and to watch the evidence session click here.

Reminder - EU Grants Registration, EaSI Programme
All UK beneficiaries of the European Union’s Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI) have been asked to register their project and organisation with the Cabinet Office. Registration details can be found on the Cabinet Office’s Gov.UK website.

Survey of the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation

The European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) has released a stakeholder survey in order to collect data for its performance report. EaSI is a financing instrument created in 2014 as part of the Europe 2020 strategy and run by the European Commission. As a financial tool it helps fund a variety of initiatives and bodies within the general themes of high-quality and sustainable employment, social protection, poverty reduction and prevention, social inclusion and fair working conditions.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work publication: foresight on new and emerging occupational safety and health risks associated with digitalisation by 2025
This report was commissioned by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) to explore future risks to workers’ health and safety in a continuously changing world of work resulting from digitalisation including ICT-enabled technologies (ICT-ETs), such as robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), and their major impacts on the nature and location of work over the next 10 year.  The report aims to inform EU decision-makers, Member States, trade unions and employers about emerging challenges to occupational safety and health (OSH) in particular of an ergonomic, organisational and psychosocial nature that need to be better understood and managed. However, the report also finds new opportunities to reduce some OSH risks for example, robotics, automation and remote interfaces can help to reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous substances.

EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals in Action
The European Commission has published a video showing how the EU Skills Profile Tool for third country nationals is used in practice. The tool is designed to support refugees, migrants and other non-EU nationals to obtain recognition for their skills, qualifications and experiences. The video depicts two examples of the tool in action: The Refugee Council in the Netherlands and Public Employment Service in Slovenia.

February 2019

Provisional agreement reached on modernising European labour law
A provisional agreement has been reached between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on new EU rules for more transparent and predictable working conditions in particular, for workers in non-standard forms of employment. These new forms of workers include, workers on zero-hour contracts, domestic or voucher-based workers and platform workers, such as on-demand drivers. The new directive will provide for new and better minimum standards for around 200 million such workers within the EU, ensuring they are fully informed of their working conditions and will benefit from more transparency and predictability. Formal agreement now has to be reached by the Parliament and Council before it is transposed into national law.

Consultation on the EU’s equal pay principle
The European Commission has launched a consultation inviting different stakeholders from public authorities, businesses and trade unions to individuals to submit their good practices and experiences in implementing the “equal pay” principle. The consultation is open until 5th April and you can find it here.

Provisional agreement on establishing a European Labour Authority reached
The Romanian Presidency of the Council and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on a Regulation to establish a European Labour Authority (ELA). The aim of an ELA is to support the implementation of EU law in the areas of labour mobility and social security coordination. It will also provide information to employees and employers on complex aspects of cross-border labour mobility. The agreement will go next to Member State representatives for endorsement, and then to formal votes in Council and the European Parliament. To find out more about the proposal, see the European Commission’s FAQ.

Publication: Parental and paternity leave – Uptake by fathers
The EU Agency for the improvement of living and working conditions (Eurofound) has published a report on the uptake of parental and paternity leave by fathers, to inform the European Commission in its negotiation on the work-life balance package for families and carers. The report provides a comparative overview of the main features of leave arrangements available for fathers across the EU, including duration, compensation and eligibility. Despite the complex and lack of coherent statistics, the report concludes that the number of fathers taking advantage of their paternity leave entitlements has been on the rise in most countries over the past decade.

UNICEF-Eurochild survey reports on the Europe Kids Want
A report has been published which summarises what European children and young people want following an online survey carried out by UNICEF and Eurochild. From over 13,500 responses from young people from 23 countries, the report finds that the three things they are most concerned about are: not finding a job (53%), the possibility of war or terrorist attacks (48%), and climate change (41%). Additionally, 43% think the EU makes their life better. The online survey remains open and you can access it here.

ECJ opinion: national law should impose an obligation on employers to keep records of workers’ actual hours worked to comply with obligations under the Working Time Directive
In a case lodged in the Spanish courts, Advocate General Pitruzzella proposes that national law should impose an obligation on employers to keep records of actual time worked by their workers. In the case concerned, five trade unions led by the union CCOO (Federacion de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras), brought an action against Deutsche Bank for the bank to set up a system that records the actual daily hours worked by its employees. The trade union argued that this system would make it easier to monitor adherence to stipulated working times, but the Bank’s position was that there was no such obligation under Spanish law.

In giving his opinion on the case, the Advocate General suggests that if an employer does not have a time recording system in place then the rights of workers under the Working Time Directive are at risk as the employer would then have discretion as to the hours workers actually performed. He said, “in the absence of any system for measuring working time, there can be no way of establishing objectively and with certainty how much work has actually been done or precisely when it was done… Moreover, without such a system, it will not be possible to differentiate between ordinary working hours and overtime or, consequently, to verify with ease and certainty whether the limits introduced by (the Working Time) Directive are being observed in practice.” He concludes that a time recording mechanism is “essential to the attainment of the objectives which the Directive pursues and to the enjoyment of the rights which it confers on individuals.“

An Advocate General’s opinion is not legally binding, but in practice, it is usually followed by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Report: Integration of Asylum Seekers and Refugees into Higher Education
A new report published recently by Eurydice looks at the integration of asylum seekers and refugees into higher education. The report gathers information on the various strategies and measures that exist across the EU for the integration of asylum seekers and refugees in higher education.

January 2019

Provisional agreement reached on new EU work life balance rules
A provisional agreement has been reached between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on new work-life balance rules that provide opportunities for working women and men to share caring responsibilities for children and relatives, on an equal basis. The Directive on Work Life Balance provides for new standards for parental, paternity and carer's leave, and the right to request flexible working arrangements. The new European minimum standard for leave now stands at:
  • 10 days paternity leave for fathers following the birth of their child, to be compensated at the level of sick pay;
  • 4 months’ parental leave with 2 months non-transferable between parents. Compensation for these 2 months will be set at a level to be determined by Member States; 
  • Carers will have the right to 5 working days worker per year, as a new European entitlement for workers and; 
  • all parents and carers will have the right to request flexible working arrangements.
The new Directive takes into account of the needs of small and medium-sized companies by providing measures to ensure that they are not disproportionately affected and is complemented with policy and funding measures such as, supporting Member States to develop formal care services and addressing economic disincentives for second earners to work. 

Eurofound report on work life balance
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) has published this report which explores the link between work and life for people in the EU and discusses what is most important to them in terms of achieving work–life balance. The report draws on a range of data sources including, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Quality of Life Survey.

The findings of the report highlight that achieving a good balance between work and private life impacts positively on an individual’s life satisfaction, health and well-being which in turn, impacts positively on their performance and commitment at work. The report summarises that work–life balance is a fundamental issue to get right for workers, employers and the wider society.

Download the full report here

EU self-assessment tool for digital skills
The European Commission has developed a self-assessment tool to support the common understanding of digital skills and how to assess them. Known as “Digcomp” - European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens - the tool provides information on 21 competences in 5 key areas: information and data literacy; communication and collaboration; digital content creation; safety and problem solving. These competences are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to achieve goals in work, learning, leisure and participation in society. DigComp is ready to use free of charge.

Community of experts on apprenticeships launched at the EU level
The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) has launched a community of apprenticeship experts to strengthen and expand best practice on apprenticeships in Europe. One expert per member state has been nominated. The new community will become a reference point and knowledge hub for apprenticeships and will establish and maintain a European database of apprenticeship schemes.

The Department for Education launches new ‘Opportunities Through Apprenticeships’ pilot scheme
The new initiative will take part in four local authorities in England – Portsmouth, Nottingham, South Tyneside and Torbay – and aims to help people from disadvantaged areas access higher level apprenticeships in sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, construction and ICT. The pilot projects, which will aim to ensure that progression routes are promoted to students, teachers, parents and carers within the four Boroughs, will run until 2020.  The success of the pilot schemes will be evaluated, and their outcomes shared across other local authorities.

Publication: New study addresses access to sport for people with disabilities
This report published by the European Commission analyses the benefits of sport participation for people with disabilities with the aim of helping community leaders create an environment where everyone can benefit from sport.  The study also explores steps which can be taken to remove potential barriers faced by individuals with disabilities wishing to take part in organised sport, such as more conveniently located facilities and better-trained professional staff.

Invitation to submit best practices on employment for young people with disabilities
The European Disabilities Forum (EDF) is looking to give recognition at the EU level to an employer of young people with disabilities or initiatives that support them to find work. If you are interested in the chance to be hailed as EDF’s youth employer of the year, then complete the short application form before 31st January 2019. The winning employer and/or initiative will be invited to Bucharest for a conference on employment at the end of March, with expenses paid. For more information visit the EDF’s website.

December 2018

Health and Social Care Workforce post Brexit
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has written to health and care providers to update them on government’s preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit which includes preparations for retaining EU nationals in the health and social care workforce. Deal or no deal, government has committed to maintaining the rights of EU citizens in the UK through the EU Settlement Scheme which provides that EU nationals will be able to register for “settled status” if they have lived in the UK for five years or, if less, for “pre-settled status”.  In acknowledgement of the fact that “EU nationals play a crucial role in our health and care system”, workers in this sector have been asked to test the Scheme prior to its launch in 2019. Although they are not obliged to register early, health and care organisations are strongly urged to encourage their EU employees to take part in the pilot to ensure as many take part as possible. To enable organisations to publicise this pilot to their EU workforce, government has provided organisations with an online toolkit including a list of who is eligible to take part in the pilot. In brief, those eligible include EU nationals employed by organisations of health and care services registered with the Care Quality Commission – this can be an NHS or independent health and care employer.

Publication of a “skills-based” Immigration White Paper
The Immigration White Paper sees Government taking on board many of the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee for a “single, skills-based immigration system for all nationalities” with no preferential access to EEA workers. Key elements of the new system will include:
  • Scrapping the overall cap on sponsored work visas, Tier 2 (General);
  • Lowering the skills threshold;
  • Abolishing the Resident Labour Market Test;
  • Reducing the bureaucratic burden on the sponsoring employer;
  • “low-skilled” workers who do not meet the skills and salary criteria will continue to have access to the labour market but only for a 12-month working visa. This will be “followed by a cooling off period of a further twelve months to prevent long-term working”. There will be “restrictions on nationalities, duration and possibly numbers”. The visa will not come with the right to claim benefits, bring family member, switch onto another visa or settle in the UK.
However, Government cannot agree on the £30,000-a-year minimum salary threshold, which currently applies to non-EU workers, and plans to hold further consultations on it. The new system will be phased in from 2021 after the Brexit transition period and will not affect EU citizens already living in the UK, who will be able to apply for “settled status” even in event of a Brexit no deal. In an article in the Guardian, industry responses range from welcoming the removal of the cap on skilled workers to deep concern over the potential £30,000-a-year minimum salary threshold which would affect sectors that are heavily reliant on predominantly EU workers, such as health and social care, construction industry and hospitality, manufacturing and agriculture sectors. Although the White Paper sets out Government’s plans for a new immigration system, it should be noted that any future trade deals with the EU27 has the potential to affect the proposals therein.

COFACE Families Europe calls for an EU Deal for Childcare
The Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Community calls on the EU to make
“accessible, affordable and quality childcare” a reality at EU, national, regional and local levels. It has published a paper A new EU deal for childcare with proposals for the EU to invest more in the health and education of children as well as support parents in reconciling work and family life.

European Economic and Social Committee: without migrants, Europe's economic and social model is in danger
The Committee organised an event focused on migration in mid-December to call for a “change in the EU narrative on migration” and to debate the issue based on real facts.  During the event, the debates focussed on the cost of “non-immigration” and the cost of “non-integration” including the opportunities that arise for member states to use migrants’ skills to fill labour shortages as a result of demographic ageing in Europe. Specifically, as the European population ages, care systems in Southern European will increasingly need to rely on migrant care workers. The Committee calls for more “investment in migrant integration (as) the best insurance policy against potential future costs, problems and tensions” and for all civil society sectors to tackle fake news and stereotypes about migration.

Handbook on the fight to end homelessness
The European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) has published a handbook highlighting best practices in managing homelessness, as showcased by its 2018 Ending Homelessness Awards winners, and makes recommendations on the lessons that EU institutions and Member States can take for 2021-2027.

UK project raising awareness of child refugees shortlisted for civil society prize

A UK project supporting vulnerable refugees including unaccompanied children to find safe and legal routes to start a new life, is one of five winners of this year’s civil society prize awarded by the Europe an Economic and Social Committee.This year’s theme focussed on recognising European identities, values and cultural heritage as a unifying force for Europe. 

Workplace Rights post Brexit
Deal or no deal, it appears that Brexit is unlikely to have a major impact on UK employment rights derived from EU law including, the Working Time Directive and TUPE regulations. In its
guidance note on workplace rights, government reaffirmed its commitment to preserve workplace rights that derive from EU legislation by transposing them into the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 - even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Furthermore, the UK has committed in the Act to maintain a ‘level playing field’ in employment and social protection laws which includes “fundamental rights at work, occupational health and safety, fair working conditions and employment standards, information and consultation rights at company level, and company restructuring’” (Article 4 of Annex 4). This agreement of “non-regression” ensures that common minimum standards are upheld by the UK so that it cannot gain an unfair competitive advantage over other EU member states at the end of the transition period.

However, although the Act will enshrine EU legislation in UK law after Brexit, it does not prevent it being amended over time or guarantee that the UK will keep pace with EU legislation enacted post transition period. IPPR research suggests that there is a risk that regression clauses are problematic as, over time, workers in the UK will enjoy weaker employment protection than those in the EU. The IPPR recommends that the UK should adopt a “common rulebook” approach which would allow the UK to develop workers’ rights in parallel with the EU and that any breaches are overseen by a supranational court.

Guidance note on workplace rights in a no deal scenario
In a ‘no deal’ scenario, there are no expected financial implications or impacts for citizens or businesses operating in the UK (whether UK or EU-based) in regard to workplace rights. However, there are some implications in relation to insolvency of some employers and the European Works Councils, as laid out below:
  • Employer Insolvency: the UK can not apply the EU Employer Insolvency Directive in a no-deal Brexit, which provides a minimum level of protection for employees and for EU-wide collaboration in relation to cross-border insolvency. However, the rights for people living and working in the UK for a UK or EU employer will continue to be protected under the same parts of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and Pension Schemes Act 1993 which implements the Insolvency Directive. Similarly, UK employees working in an EU country are protected by the laws of that country.
  • European Works Councils: the UK cannot legislate unilaterally for rights that require multilateral cooperation at an EU level hence, future UK participation in the framework would not be permitted in a no-deal Brexit. The statutory framework that applies to the European Works Councils would require a reciprocal agreement from the EU for them to continue to function in their present form within the UK and hence, over time, a bilateral agreement with the EU might be possible.
UK funding guarantee: register your Employment and Social Innovation funded project with UK government!
The Cabinet Office has opened an online registration system to allow UK beneficiaries of EU funding programmes including EaSI, to register for the UK funding guarantee in the event of no-deal. Once registered, project leads will be informed of next steps in the process. The webpage will remain open after the UK leaves the EU so that UK applicants can continue to register as and when they are informed that their bid has been successful. Full details, a FAQs page and the pro-forma are available on GOV.UK.

Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture report on how to address skills shortages
A new study by COR’s SEDEC Commission has been published exploring how regions across Europe can tackle the increasing challenge of retaining young, skilled people. Increasingly, European local and regional authorities are faced with skills shortages in their regions and have to cope with the resulting socio-economic issues. The study paper showcases successful initiatives related to meeting skills shortages implemented at the local and regional levels, to highlight best practice approaches for addressing the brain drain phenomenon.

€1.5m EU funding for University College London study on wage inequality

The University will receive €1,491,803 from the European Research Council to study wage inequality within and across companies. The research will investigate why wages have become more dependent on where the worker works and less dependent on worker skills, the role of employers in encouraging women to return to work after childbirth and in reducing labour market inequalities by considering whether the family-friendly policies provided by firms are more effective than government policies.

New Portal for EU funding and tendering opportunities including Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and Employment & Social Innovation Fund
As of 30th November 2018, a new Funding and Tender Portal has replaced the Participant Portal for EU funding programmes. The webpage for each programme will provide all information about the programme including related funding and tendering opportunities, results of selected and past projects as well as latest news and developments relevant to the programme. In case of difficulties in access, the Participant Portal will still be accessible in the interim.

EUROFOUND report on the social and employment situation of people with disabilities
To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Eurofound launched its latest policy brief on the social and employment situation of people with disabilities, which uses data from the 2011 and 2016 European Quality of Life Surveys to assess changes in areas such as employment, education and training, participation in society, social protection and healthcare.

Following the closure of the European Partnership at the end of March 2019, this website is no longer active and will not be updated. However, it will be kept live for a period of time as an archive resource.