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Social policy

Article 151 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) details the EU's social policy objectives: promoting employment, improving working and living conditions, equal treatment of workers, adequate social protection according to need, social dialogue, developing human resources aimed at achieving a high and sustainable level of employment, as well as combating exclusion.

In addition, Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) gives binding force to the social rights in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. A horizontal social clause is introduced by Article 9 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. The definition and implementation of the EU's policies and actions must take into account the following social requirements:

  • the promotion of a high level of employment;
  • the guarantee of adequate social protection;
  • the fight against social exclusion;
  • a high level of education, training and protection of human health.

Social policy is primarily the responsibility of EU countries. However, certain aspects are a shared competence with the EU.

The European Parliament and the Council may adopt incentive measures to support and complement the actions of EU countries in certain areas, such as the fight against social exclusion. They may also adopt minimum requirements in the form of directives, namely legislation which enables EU countries to adopt additional stricter provisions. These directives only concern:

  • health and safety of workers;
  • working conditions;
  • social security and social protection of workers (EU countries remain responsible for defining the fundamental principles of their social security systems);
  • protection of workers in the case of termination of their employment contract;
  • information and protection of workers;
  • collective representation and defence of workers' and employers' interests;
  • working conditions for non-EU nationals residing legally on EU territory;
  • integration of persons excluded from the labour market;
  • equality between men and women concerning their treatment in relation to employment.

Implementation of these measures may be carried out by social partners.