First announced in September 2017 by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (EC), the EU Labour Authority (ELA) is expected to be set up in 2019 and become fully operational by 2023. Following consultations and an Impact assessment in early 2018, the EC presented a legislative proposal on 13 March 2018.

The European Labour Authority’s aim will be to help individuals, businesses and national administrations take advantage of the opportunities offered by free movement and, most-of-all, to ensure fair labour mobility. The role of the ELA will be to:

  • Provide information to citizens and business on opportunities for jobs, apprenticeships, mobility schemes, recruitment and training, as well as guidance on rights and obligations to live, work and/or operate in another Member State of the EU
  • Support cooperation between national authorities in cross-border situations
  • Mediate and facilitate solutions in case of cross-border disputes

The EU Labour Authority was also proposed as part of the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights, a set of 20 principles aiming to establish common social rights across EU Member States. These principles cover the fields of equal opportunities and access to the labour market as well as fair working conditions, social protection, and inclusion. In particular, the ELA is conceived as a key step forward in protecting the rights and social protection of people working and living abroad.

Impact on the social services sector

The social services sector is currently undergoing increasing demand for formal care services whilst many EU countries are experiencing recruitment gaps. This may lead to an increase in the movement of carers and social workers between EU countries. The EU Labour Authority could play a major role for these workers, in particular in protecting their rights and in harmonising skills at the EU level.

In a study published in 2017, the European Social Network (ESN) highlighted that recruiting migrant workers can be an opportunity for workers from countries where salaries are lower to improve their lives if remuneration, working conditions and life opportunities are better than in their home country. However, in some cases migrant workers accept lower wages and have worse-off working conditions compared to native workers in their host countries. The ELA could therefore contribute its expertise on rights and obligations to foreign care and social workers in order to guarantee fair working conditions for all EU citizens. Moreover, the ELA could also enforce migrant care workers’ employment rights.

In addition, the ELA could also play a major role in the harmonisation of qualifications within the social services sector. Currently, differences between qualifications and roles makes it difficult for employers and regulators to recognise foreign qualifications. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications in social work and social care across the EU would benefit the provision of quality services in all European countries.