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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Free movement of workers

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Free movement of workers

The ability of European citizens to move easily and work in another European Union (EU) country is one of the four fundamental free movement principles enshrined in the EU Treaties. This regulation updates earlier legislation and ensures the principle is honoured in practice.


Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union


Free movement of labour benefits the individuals who choose to work elsewhere in the EU and the societies which receive them. It enables the former to improve their personal situation and the latter to plug job vacancies and skills shortages.

Just as someone living in one EU country has the right to take up gainful employment in another, so employers can advertise job vacancies and agree contracts with potential employees from throughout the EU.

The legislation replaces Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 which had been substantially amended several times since being originally approved in October 1968. It ensures the system operates smoothly by outlawing any form of national discrimination between EU employees.

In particular, it bans:

  • separate recruitment procedures for foreign nationals, and
  • limits on advertising of vacancies or imposition of specific conditions such as registering with employment offices for people coming from another EU country.

Similarly, it is illegal to discriminate between national and other EU workers on employment terms covering pay, dismissal and reinstatement or on social and tax advantages. Both categories have equal access to training in vocational schools and retraining centres.

The same principle of access to national general educational, apprenticeship and vocational training schemes applies to the children of someone who is, or has been working, in another EU country.

The legislation covers certain social rights. An employee working in another EU country is entitled to the same potential housing benefits as nationals and may register on a housing list, where these exist, in the area where they are working.

One exception

The one exception to the no discrimination principle is linguistic. Employers can require a prospective worker has a sufficient command of the country's language if this is necessary for the position on offer.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council



OJ L 141, 27.5.2011


Commission Implementing Decision 2012/733/EU of 26 November 2012 implementing Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the clearance of vacancies and applications for employment and the re-establishment of EURES (notified under document C(2012) 8548) (OJ L328, 28.11.2012).

Last updated: 16.06.2014