New EU Directive adopted - a flawed but important first step

16. 04. 2019

Today, as one of its final acts before the end of its current mandate, the European Parliament adopted the Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions. The European Youth Forum welcomes this new instrument, but encourages both Member States and the EU to do more, especially for young workers.

What is the Directive? 

The aim of this Directive is ultimately to promote more secure and predictable employment. It is one of the key follow-up actions to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Directive revolves around two main pillars:

  • The right of workers to receive more accurate, comprehensive and timely information on their working conditions.
  • The establishment of a minimum set of rights all workers should be entitled to.

What’s in it for young people?

The new Directive is set to cover a broad range of employment relationships, including non-standard forms of work. Given that young people are more likely to be in precarious employment, many young workers would likely benefit from the Directive, and from clearer and more transparent working conditions.

Is it all good news? 

Despite its potential for improving working conditions for young people, the Directive does not mention them as a key target. In fact, there are many points where it fails to protect all young people. 

One failure is to not adequately address the situation of unpaid interns and apprentices. We regret that the adopted text only mentions the possibility of paid interns and apprentices being covered by the Directive once transposed into national legislation. 

Furthermore, the main explicit mention of young people is made with a reference to the possibility of imposing longer probationary periods for young workers. This is regrettable, as it would put young people at a disadvantage in the labour market, discriminating against young workers merely on the basis of their age. 

Other key shortcomings include the lack of an EU-level definition of what a worker is; the failure to tackle the issue of zero-hour contracts, which tend to be taken up by young people; and the failure to give workers the right to transfer to a more secure form of employment. These are missed opportunities to provide stronger protection in a labour market that is not always fair, transparent, and youth-friendly. 

Overall, the major failing of the Directive is that the attention on “transparent and predictable” does not deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights promise of fair working conditions.  

Our calls

While flawed, this Directive is a step in the right direction, and should be implemented as soon as possible. The European Youth Forum calls on Member States to be ambitious when transposing the Directive into national legislation. More specifically, we call on Member States to:

  • Ensure that all workers, including all interns and apprentices, regardless of whether they are paid or not, have access to transparent and fair working conditions.
  • Delete any reference to young people as a category of workers for whom probationary periods can be extended; and ensure that the time that most young people invest into internships or apprenticeships counts towards a young professional’s probationary period.
  • Ban zero-hour contracts once and for all.

We encourage the next cycle of European institutions to continue adopting concrete measures to implement all the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights, to deliver on fair working conditions and  tackle the challenges posed by the changing nature of work. 

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