General Principles

The European social policy increasingly influences German labour and social law. Around 70 % of the national employment legislation is attributable to European initiatives.

Originally the European Community was founded with the aim of harmonising the economic conditions in the member states. An alignment of social conditions was intended to be achieved by the economic effects of the single market. However, in the course of ongoing integration the socio-political objectives and competences of the European Union expanded more and more.

Meanwhile, the European Union made good use of its authority and adopted a variety of directives and regulations that set minimum standards for labour and social law in the member states.  For example, there are provisions on labour and health protection, maternity leave, part-time work, short-term contracts, mass layoffs, the establishment of European Works Councils and a variety of antidiscrimination laws.

The national implementing legislation fulfils and often exceeds the European requirements. In addition, the impact of European legislation is heightened by the rulings of the European Court of Justice, often lessening the leeway for national implementation.

The regulations are often associated with bureaucratic burdens and costs for companies. Reducing barriers to employment is essential to ensure a continued high social standard in the European member states. Only competitive companies are in a position to create new and secure jobs and to offer employees appropriate working conditions. The goal of European social policy must be to counteract the over-regulation of labour and social law.