Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Second Report


FOREWORD—What this report is about

In its Green Paper consultation about the need for labour market reform, the European Commission has argued that the increasing diversity of 21st century working relationships means that existing labour law is no longer adequate to meet the needs of both businesses and workers. This Report brings together the evidence we received from a wide range of experts and representative organisations about these issues as they affect the UK labour market. We found that, for the most part, this evidence did not support the argument put forward by the Commission.

The consensus of opinion is that the relatively light regulation of the UK labour market, in comparison with some other EU Member States, has been advantageous in allowing a flexibility of employment arrangements which has benefited the UK economy. Almost all the evidence in this Report points to the conclusion that problems of social disadvantage and structural unemployment, where these exist in the UK, would be better addressed by measures aimed at tackling poor skills and social inequality than by changing labour law.

We have therefore recommended that efforts at EU level to affect the broad frameworks of labour law within Member States should be planned to promote the sharing of experience and good practice, rather than to introduce new legislation.

The Report considers a number of specific issues relating to the UK labour market and, inter alia, sets out our concerns about the exploitation of vulnerable groups, especially migrant workers. We welcome the action taken by the Government during our Inquiry to consult on the introduction of measures which would help to strengthen the employment protection in the UK of such vulnerable groups of workers.

While the reports we received, of the perception that the UK "gold plates" EC directives relating to employment, are described in the Report, we saw no conclusive evidence to support this view. We have therefore recommended no further action on this matter.

Modernising European Union labour law: has the UK anything to gain?

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