In today's globally interconnected world of work, cross-border issues play an increasingly prominent role – particularly for corporates with a multi-jurisdictional presence in the European Union. When drafting employment agreements which relate to several EU jurisdictions, it is therefore advisable to determine the applicable law in advance. The possibility of selecting which legal context should apply offers parties a certain level of autonomy; however, this is not unlimited.
The EU Pensions Directive, first proposed over 10 years ago, finally came into effect in September 2003. The directive aims to pave the way for pension schemes to operate, and be managed, across EU borders - an attractive proposition to multinational companies due to the potential for cost savings and simplified administration.
The decisive factor in determining whether the Acquired Rights Directive results in a 'relevant transfer' of employees on a contracting-out is whether there is a stable economic entity which retains its identity. In considering whether an entity retains its identity, a distinction is made between 'asset-reliant' and 'labour-intensive' entities.
In June 2003 the EU-level social partners agreed a joint text on socially intelligent restructuring, which provides companies with a set of guidelines to follow in order to ensure successful change management. Key recommendations include good-quality, timely and open communications, and developing workers' skills and qualifications.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that all on-call duty performed by a doctor required to be present in a hospital constitutes 'working time' for the purposes of the Working Time Directive. This will be the case even where the doctor sleeps at the hospital when his services are not required, and periods of sleep or inactivity do not amount to rest periods.
The European Commission is planning a draft directive on data protection in the workplace in 2004 or 2005. Its proposals include a general European framework on the processing of medical data, and limits on the use of data resulting from drug and genetic testing.
The EU Council of Ministers has failed to reach political agreement on the proposed directive regulating the working conditions of temporary agency workers. A key area of disagreement is the length of the qualifying period before protection applies.
The European Commission has published a report as part of an EU initiative to promote the sustainability and security of national pension systems. Key among the findings is that the ratio of people over 65 to people of working age is expected to double between now and 2050, with pensions expenditure in most member states rising significantly from about 2015 onwards.
There has been further progress towards the proposal for a directive for EU-wide rules on the activities and supervision of institutions operating occupational retirement provision services. The current draft introduced a number of changes, including a provision allowing schemes to provide retirement benefits in the form of a lump sum without restriction.
In November 2002 the European Parliament approved the proposal for a directive regulating the working conditions of temporary agency workers. However, the European Council has been unable to agree on a revised text, primarily due to continuing disagreement on the length of the qualifying period before the protection applies.
The European Commission recently presented a new proposal for a directive on takeover bids, which affords employees and their representatives stronger information and consultation rights than those contained in the previous proposal rejected by the European Parliament in July 2001.
A high-level group of company law experts, appointed by the European Commission to make recommendations aimed at modernizing the regulatory framework for company law, has published its final report. They include a recommendation that the costs of all share incentive schemes be properly accounted for in annual accounts.
The European Parliament has suggested a number of changes to the proposed directive on the working conditions of temporary agency workers. These include confirmation that the principle of non-discrimination should be applied from the commencement of a temporary agency worker's assignment, and an exemption for member states unaccustomed to the non-discrimination principle.
An amendment to the 1976 Equal Treatment Directive, which strengthens worker protection against discrimination on grounds of sex, marital or family status and pregnancy and maternity, requires implementation by member states by October 5 2005. Among other things, it requires member states to establish equality monitoring bodies.