We are about to adopt new rules on the posting of workers, a topic currently shaking Europe at its core. The revision of the posted workers directive presented in March 2016 has become a politically sensitive issue, reflecting the discrepancies between countries, opening up a fundamental question - the future of free movement of services.
Sadly, we found ourselves in a situation of rising protectionism, where free movement of services is under attack. Intra-EU labour mobility between high-wage and low-wage countries has become a source of controversial disputes provoked by those who equate different wages and economic levels with social dumping, an illegal phenomenon that must be rooted out.
In fact, the cross-border posting of workers, when it complies with rules, and despite different wages, is a perfectly legal and important for Europe’s competitiveness and its desired mobility. It benefits workers, employers and the wider economy by addressing unemployment disparities in the EU, tackling labour shortages and skills gaps.
Mobility, however, needs to be based on clear, transparent and enforceable rules, safeguarding free movement and protecting citizens’ rights, while strengthening the tools to address possible abuse. The Commission produced new rules that address these issues by means of the targeted review of the posting of workers directive and better coordination of social security systems.
The latter aims to determine which and how social security systems apply. It is crucial for the functioning of the single market to make sure that those who are mobile within the EU do not lose their social security protection when moving abroad.
Overall, the Commission’s approach on social security coordination is balanced. The regulation supports free movement of services by ensuring workers that are temporarily posted to another member state can remain under their home country’s social security system for up to 24 months.
This benefits both workers and companies, preventing frequent changes in workers’ social security situation, while workers need not worry about affecting their family’s social security rights. At the same time, it results in less administrative burden and more clarity for both parties, thereby facilitating mobility.
However, this may be jeopardised if the coherence of rules on social security coordination with the revisions for posted workers are not be preserved.
Setting a new, 12-month limit for posting after which the host country’s labour laws will apply to the posted worker - which the Council has agreed to - will create new administrative burdens and inconsistencies with how social security systems function and should be avoided.
Even when posted abroad, job losses can occur; it is essential to have the ability to receive unemployment benefits while looking for a job. The Commission’s proposal for extending the period of exporting benefits to six months is reasonable, giving jobseekers a better chance to find work, and help tackle EU-wide unemployment and skill mismatches.
The proposal to require at least three months’ work in a member state to access unemployment benefits is appropriate for avoiding abuses of social security systems.