Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Second Report


Inquiry into the EU Commission Green Paper "Modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century"

EU Sub-Committee G (Social Policy and Consumer Affairs) is conducting an Inquiry into the issues raised by the European Commission's Green Paper "Modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century", published on 22 November 2006. The Green Paper—COM(2006) 708 final—is available on the Commission website at:

The Commission's consultation is intended to launch a debate on how labour law can evolve to support the EU's objective of achieving sustainable growth with more and better jobs. They recognise that rapid technological progress and globalisation have fundamentally changed European labour markets. Fixed term contracts, part-time work, on-call and zero-hour contracts, hiring through temporary employment agencies and freelance contracts have become an established feature of the European labour market, accounting for 25% of the workforce. At the same time, there is a growing gap between those looking for work, those in non-standard, sometimes precarious contractual arrangements on the one hand (so-called 'outsiders'), and those in permanent, full-time jobs on the other (the 'insiders').

The Commission's view is that employment rules which are clear and easy to understand are as important for employers as they are for workers. Even though many aspects of labour law are dealt with at national level, they seek views about how labour law at EU and national level can help the job market become more flexible while maximizing security for workers (the 'flexicurity' approach).

Interested parties are invited to submit a concise statement of written evidence to this Inquiry by Friday 30 March 2007. In particular, we would welcome responses to some or all of the following questions:

Flexibility of the labour market

How flexible is the labour market in the UK? What could be the benefits of making it more flexible, and how could this be achieved? In which ways, if any, could changes in labour law help with this?

Employment security

What is the extent of employment security in the UK? What could be the benefits of changing the present arrangements for employment security? In which ways, if any, could changes in labour law help with this?

The concept of "Flexicurity"

How helpful do you think is the Commission's concept of "flexicurity" seeking to combine the ideals of a flexible labour market with those of employment security? How practical could it be to strike a balance between these two ideals and where should such a balance be struck? In which ways, if any, could changes in labour law help with this?

Other labour market challenges

What other challenges are facing those involved in the labour market? Respondents may wish to comment on their knowledge of a variety of different types of "subordinate" employment contracts and/or on their knowledge of the challenges faced by those in self-employment, "economically-dependent" self-employment and agency work. To what extent could changes in labour law help to address these challenges?

Groups covered by labour law

To which categories of workers should labour law apply? Are any workers currently excluded that ought, in your view, to be included? What is your view of the issues raised by the Green Paper about the applicability of labour law to groups of workers whose employment status is intermediate between that of employee and self-employed?

Role of EU Regulation

What is the role of regulation at the EU-level in achieving a modernised system of labour law? Are there any specific pieces of EU legislation that need either to be repealed or to be introduced? Do you consider that the Green Paper's proposed "Floor of Rights" for all workers is a viable one? In order to promote worker mobility, would a Community-wide definition of "worker" be useful?

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