The proposals are the direct result of the decision taken at the Amsterdam Summit last June to incorporate the Social Protocol into the new Treaty, and the decision by the UK Government to sign up to the new Treaty provisions. This effectively ends the UK opt-out, because the UK Government also announced that it was accepting the Directives already adopted under the Agreement on Social Policy. The Commission was asked to submit to the Council the necessary proposals as soon as possible. Once the directives are adopted by the Council, the UK will have two years to transpose their provisions into national legislation, the same period originally granted to the other Member States.
The two proposed directives extend the European Works Council and the Parental Leave Directives to the UK on the basis of Article 100 of the EC Treaty, (that is, as measures aimed at improving the functioning of the Single Market by removing a source of distortion of competition linked to the application of different standards).
The new proposals do not alter the substance of the existing directives, though the extension to the UK of the European Work Councils directive will require some adjustments by the other Member States, given its transnational character.
Background: the European Work Councils and Parental Leave directives
Council Directive 94/45/EC of 22 September 1994, on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees, was adopted under Article 2 (2) of the Agreement on Social Policy annexed to the Maastricht Treaty. It applies to:
a) undertakings with at least 1000 employees in all the Member States and with at least two establishments in different Member States, each employing at least 150 workers, and
b) groups of undertakings with at least 1 000 employees in all the Member States and with at least two group undertakings in different Member States which each employ at least 150 employees.
It does not apply to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Council Directive 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996 on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC UNICE - Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe
-- CEEP - European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation * ETUC - European Trade Union Confederation was adopted under article 4 (2) of the agreement on social policy annexed to the Maastricht Treaty, with the aim of transposing into EU law the framework agreement concluded by the social partners. The agreement sets out minimum requirements on parental leave (three months unpaid) and time off from work on grounds of force majeure for urgent family reasons, was the first collective agreement at European level autonomously negotiated by the social partners under article 4 (2) of the Agreement on Social Policy. Since then, UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC have concluded a second framework agreement on part-time work, signed on 6 June 1997. On 26 July the Commission adopted a draft Council Directive aimed at giving the new framework agreement full legal force.