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Employment policy

Integrated guidelines and recommendations for employment policy

In the context of the mid-term review of the strategy, the March 2005 European Council provided an appropriate response to the review based on an expert report by Wim Kok. Growth and employment will be the main priorities; until satisfactory development is achieved here, it will be impossible to maintain the competitiveness of the European economy and the European standard of living - coupled with its special social model and its emphasis on environmental issues.

In this context, substantial simplification and adjustments to the existing processes will be carried out on the organisational level. The resulting transparency should help to boost the endeavours at national level in particular and set in motion a comprehensive pan-European process supported by a mutual strengthening of the measures put in place. The new Integrated Guidelines were adopted under the Luxembourg Presidency in 2005.

Planned activities during the Austrian EU Presidency

The annual adoption of the employment policy guidelines, the core element of the European Employment Strategy, is anchored in primary legislation. These have been included in the Integrated Guidelines since the reform of the Lisbon Process. The European Council will carry out an evaluation in June 2006.


European Commission proposals for a regulation on the Structural Funds 2007-2013, in particular the European Social Fund (ESF)

The European Social Fund contributes to the objective of economic and social cohesion set out in Article 158 of the EC Treaty by supporting policies and priorities that – in agreement with the guidelines and recommendations in the European Employment Strategy – promote progress in full employment, improved labour quality and productivity and social cohesion.

The draft regulation on the European Social Fund was published by the European Commission in July 2004. Council working groups have been engaged in negotiations since November 2004.


Labour Law

Negotiation of a proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and the Council on the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007) – Towards a just society

The European Commission has declared 2007 to be the “European Year of Equal Opportunities for All”. The European Year is part of a framework strategy through which effective action is taken against discrimination, diversity is communicated as a positive value and equal opportunities for all is promoted.

The aims of the European Year are:

  • Rights – raising awareness of the right to equality and non-discrimination
  • Representation – stimulating debate on ways to increase the participation in society of groups that have had little representation in the past
  • Recognition - celebrating and accommodating diversity
  • Respect and tolerance – promoting a more cohesive society

The actions designed to meet these objectives may entail the development of or the provision of support for:

  • meetings and events
  • information and promotional campaigns
  • surveys and studies on a Community or national level

Actions may be financed both at EU level and at national level. Budgetary framework 2006/2007: EUR 13.6 million

Austria’s activities during the EU Presidency

The proposal is being further negotiated in the Council working group.


Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the amendment of Directive 2003/88/EC on certain aspects of the organisation of working time

Directive 2003/88/EC on working time contains minimum standards for the organisation of working time in order to better protect the health and safety of workers. It establishes a maximum weekly working time of 48 hours, including overtime, and contains provisions on rest periods, breaks and night work and a minimum of four weeks’ paid holiday.

The Working Time Directive provides for a review by the European Commission. This was done through a communication by the Commission in 2002. After the social partner negotiations in accordance with Article 138 of the EC Treaty, the Commission presented a proposal for an amendment to the Working Time Directive on 22 September 2004.


  • The reference period for calculating the weekly working time of 48 hours may be extended by law from 4 months to 12 months. Time spent on call when the employee is not working but remains at the place of employment is not to be considered to be working time and thus is not included in the calculation of maximum working time of 48 hours per week. Compensatory rest for the shortening of rest periods must be granted within a period of 72 hours.
  • New rules will be adopted on opt-outs (agreements between the employee and the employer to work for longer than the maximum working time of 48 hours). On 11 May 2005, the European Parliament voted amendments to the draft directive (first reading). On 31 May 2005, the Commission presented an amended proposal that takes into consideration both additional proposals by the Council and proposals for amendments by the European Parliament. (COM (2005) 246 final).

Austria’s activities during the EU Presidency

Because of the differing positions of the Member States, primarily as regards the opt-out rules, no agreement is to be expected during the British Presidency. Thus Austria will continue the negotiations on the draft directive.


Protection of workers

The citizens of the European Union have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. They can benefit from a clear, wide-ranging EU strategy on protection of workers. The applicability throughout the EU of the directives on health and safety at work guarantees minimum standards of protection and hence a level playing field between the Member States of the EU, thereby reducing distortions of competition.

Austria’s activities during the EU Presidency

The development of minimum EU standards in the area of safety and health at work will be continued during the Austrian Presidency. Austria intends to place on the agenda a proposal by the European Commission to include agents which are toxic for human reproduction in the carcinogens directive and to establish additional indicative limit values for occupational exposure to carcinogens. The same minimum standards for the protection of workers applying to carcinogens should also apply to agents which are toxic for human reproduction.

In addition, as a follow-up to the Better Regulation initiative of the Competitiveness Council, the existing obligations of the Member States and social partners to report on the practical application in industry of the directives on worker protection will be rationalised and harmonised by an amendment to the 1989 framework directive on safety and health at work. This will reduce bureaucracy and give a clearer view of measures required at Community level.

In continuation of the work of the UK Presidency, the follow-up to the Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006 “Adapting to change in work and society” and priorities in this area will be discussed during the Austrian Presidency. The results of the discussions will be included in the future Community strategy on health and safety at work 2007-2011.



Date: 09.05.2006