An opt-out provision allows hours to be worked in excess of the 48-hour maximum if the employee wishes to do so and if this possibility is expressly laid down by collective agreement or national law. Refusal to work more than the average working time must not entail any negative consequences.
This directive will be adopted jointly by the two co-legislators, the Council and the European Parliament; the latter gave its opinion on 11 May 2005.
Better conditions for temporary workers
The EU employment and social policy ministers meeting on 9 June reached agreement on a directive which will regulate temporary agency work. The new instrument seeks to promote the flexibility required by the labour market together with job security and protection of workers' rights. At the same time, it takes into account the diversity of labour markets and the vital role of the social partners.
The directive lays down a principle of equal treatment. Although the agency is the normal legal employer of these workers, they should enjoy the same basic working and employment conditions as those recruited directly by the client to do the same job. This means, for instance, equal protection for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Derogations from this principle, such as the possibility of excluding short-time assignments or introducing a qualifying period for equal treatment, could essentially be made only through agreements by the social partners.
Temporary agency work is a rapidly growing form of atypical employment in the EU. There are considerable differences in the use of this kind of employment and in the status and working conditions of temporary agency workers, or "temps", throughout the EU. In the newer member states this type of work is mostly a relatively new phenomenon, and in many cases, only recently made legal.
Temporary work contributes to both job creation and competitiveness. It allows companies to adjust their staffing needs at short notice. For workers, it can be a means of reconciling working life and private life, and may provide a stepping stone to the labour market.
The Council will adopt this directive jointly with the European Parliament.
Elimination of gender stereotypes
Gender equality is a fundamental principle of the European Union. The different perception of men and women has considerable consequences, both for the individual and for society. For this reason, the Employment and Social Policy Council on 9 June adopted conclusions on eliminating gender stereotypes in society.
First, gender-based prejudices have influence on the upbringing of girls, shaping their identity to reflect a traditional gender role model, affecting their choice of education, studies and job.
Gender stereotypes also affect the treatment of girls at school. The education system should raise awareness of gender equality and review curricula, materials and teacher-training programmes with a view to encouraging girls and boys to break with traditional gender role thinking.
In employment and the labour market, women should be guaranteed the same opportunities as men in recruitment, training and promotion, and the gender pay gap should be eliminated. The economic inequality between women and men has huge costs for society, preventing the EU from achieving its full competitive potential. Women should have the opportunity to take part in decision-making, both in the economy and in political life.
Fight against cancer
The member states of the European Union are to intensify their cooperation in the fight against cancer. In the conclusions adopted on 10 June in Luxembourg EU health ministers pointed out that statistically one in three Europeans will develop cancer during his or her lifetime. According to the World Health Organization, there were about 3,2 million new cases diagnosed in Europe in 2006; about 1,7 million Europeans died of cancer in the same year. Foreseeable demographic changes are likely to increase the incidence of cancer over the next few decades.
The most common types of this disease are breast, colorectal and lung cancers, with lung cancer remaining the most fatal form. Ministers emphasised that at least one third of cancer cases could be avoided by appropriate preventive measures. National cancer strategies should aim to raise citizens' awareness of key risk factors, such as tobacco consumption, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Governments should also implement population-wide screening programmes as an effective way to reduce cancer risk and mortality.
Health ministers furthermore stressed the need to improve collaboration in cancer research within the EU and internationally. They invited the European Commission to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences and to support the networking of registries on cancer incidence, mortality, prevalence and survival.
Council Press release(pdf)
Council webcast of Press conference
Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, 12-13 June 2008