FedEE EU Glossary

A-Z of the European Union


  • Accession Countries Those states currently negotiating EU membership, or awaiting final entry to the EU.

  • Acquired Rights See Transfer of Undertakings

  • Action Programme A strategy used by the European Commission to change attitudes rather than exert legal controls. Alternative definition: A programme embracing a wide set of policy measures.

  • Advocate-General Senior officer of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) who provides advice to the judiciary. Their views are published.

  • Agency Workers Temporary workers employed through an independent agency and subject to Directive 2008/104/EC.

  • Article 45 (ex Article 39) The section in the EU Treaty that deals with the freedom of movement of workers. It outlaws discrimination based on nationality.

  • Article 153 (5) the section of the EU Treaty which excludes EU powers in respect to pay (except for equal pay), the right of association, the right to strike or the right to impose lock-outs.

  • Article 157  That section in the EU Treaty which outlines the rights of the European Union to deal with equal pay (and equal treatment) issues.

  • Article 158 The Treaty obligation to harmonise paid holiday arrangements between EU member states.

  • Associate Members Those states (or sub-states) that enjoy free trade rights within the European Union, but need not comply with certain aspects of the union’s legal framework eg: the Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Azores and several French colonies.

  • Atypical Worker Someone who does not operate in a full-time or permanent employment capacity, ie: a part-time, fixed-term or temporary employee.

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  • Biological Agents The subject of a workplace health and safety Directive. This covers a wide range of possibly infectious diseases which may be transmitted in the workplace.

  • Barroso, José Manuel: Former Prime Minister of Portugal and current President of the European Commission.

  • Brussels The capital of Belgium and the location of the principal offices for the European Commission. It is also becoming the principal meeting place for European parliamentary committees.

  • Burden of Proof The principle in equal opportunity cases that the natural advantage in proving a case lies with an employer. It therefore reverses the onus and leaves an employer the task of proving their innocence once the plaintiff has established the facts.

  • Business Europe An umbrella organisation for national industry and employer associations at a European level. The organisation was formerly called UNICE.

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  • Cabinet A group of aides in the private office of a European Commissioner.

  • CEDEFOP An EU sponsored agency which is principally concerned with research into the mutual recognition of qualifications. Formerly based in Berlin, now in Greece.

  • Chemical Agents The subject of a health and safety Directive.

  • Child Care A Council Recommendation (1992) aimed at increasing provision to benefit working parents.

  • Citizens’ Europe A popular official expression in the 1970s to indicate the importance of free movement and the creation of a shared identity across the Community of member states. It is perhaps best symbolized by the existence of a common passport.

  • Codetermination A requirement regulating the operation of works councils in several continental countries. It defines a number of areas where the agreement of employee representatives is necessary before management may take action. eg: the monitoring of employee performance.

  • Collective Redundancy The dismissal of several employees from a single establishment or undertaking. It is covered by the Collective Redundancy Directive (now revised).

  • Cohesion The task of removing economic and social imbalances within the European Union. Not all countries enjoy the same standard of living and that is one of the main reasons for providing regional aid.

  • Common Market Original name for the European Union. Technically called the EEC, then the EC and finally the EU.

  • Community Language Any of the languages officially recognized by the EU institutions.

  • Constitution See EU Constitution.

  • Construction Sites Temporary and/or mobile operations. Subject to a sector health and safety Directive (1992).

  • Co-operation Procedure Established by the Treaty. This provides a mechanism for achieving agreement in the Council of Ministers by a qualified majority voting procedure and the more streamlined passage of measures through the other institutions. Now largely replaced by co-decision procedure.

  • Copenhagen criteria: The standards that must be met before a country may be accepted into EU membership.

  • COREPER Permanent representatives of member states (civil servants) who carry out many of the detailed tasks associated with achieving agreement on a proposed EU measure.

  • Council of Europe Established in 1949 as an intergovernmental forum for international policy co-ordination between all European democracies. One of its most important landmarks was the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

  • Council of Ministers The supreme legislative arm of the European Union. Specialist councils are composed of national ministers from all member states. Social and employment matters are dealt with by the EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council. This usually meets on a formal basis 2-3 times a year.

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  • Data Protection The EU General Data Protection Directive (1995), which establishes common European standards for the handling of personnel records. Effective date 24th October 1998.

  • Delors, Jacques Former President of the European Commission. He was the architect of the single market programme and responsible for the greater emphasis placed upon the European social dimension.

  • Derogation A special ‘licence’ to remain outside the strict application of a Directive or Regulation provided that certain criteria have been met (i.e. the matter is covered by a current collective agreement).

  • Dignity of Men and Women at Work A Commission Recommendation (1991) aimed at reducing sexual harassment.

  • Direct Effect The right of EU citizens to cite treaties, Directives and other EU measures in national courts.

  • Directive A decision by the Council of Ministers that must be incorporated into national legislation by all member states within an agreed time limit (usually two or three years).

  • Directorate General (DG) A division of the European Commission. DG5 covers employment, industrial relations, social affairs and equal opportunities.

  • Dublin Convention (asylum): The protocol that must be followed by a country when deciding whether to grant political asylum

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  • Economic and Social Committee Established in 1958 as a body consisting of representatives from national governments and both sides of industry. It has negligible powers, but does retain a right to be consulted about proposed measures in its domain.

  • EEA See European Economic Area.

    Effective date The date given in an EU Directive as the deadline for incorporation into national legislation.

  • EFTA The small and declining free trade area that embraces several western European countries that are outside the European Union.

  • Emanation of the State All public bodies (and many quangos) can be classified in this way and must therefore apply EU Directives as soon as they reach their formal effective date even if the Directive has not been formally incorporated into national laws.

  • Enlargement The programme for expanding the European Union.

    Equal Pay Directive This establishes the rights of men and women to receive equal pay for the same (or equivalent) work (1975). Effective in 1976.

  • Equal Treatment Directive This sets out the rights of men and women to be treated equally with regard to access to employment, vocational training, promotion and working conditions (1976). Effective in 1978. Directive fully revised as a framework measure (2002).

  • ETUC An umbrella organisation for national trade union confederations at a European level.

  • EU The European Union.

  • EU Constitution Originally drawn up by a special convention in 2003 and not yet adopted. It is intended to form the ongoing basis for further EC treaties.

  • Euro Common currency for the EU states that have so far accepted full European Monetary Union.

  • Eurolink Age A network of organisations and individuals concerned with older people and ageing issues.

  • Europe 2020: The EU’s growth strategy setting targets for employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy

  • European Collective Agreement This was first established through The Maastricht Treaty. This seeks to introduce change through collective bargaining rather than by statutory measures alone.

  • European Commission The ‘civil service’ of the European Union. The Commission also has some executive powers in its own right.

  • European Commissioner A principal officer of the European Commission. They collectively form an administration under the President. Each has a specialist portfolio.

  • European Community (EC) Former name for the European Union (see EU), but retained for use in some contexts.

  • European Company Statute A measure allowing the establishment of a European company. A protocol to the Directive guarantees employee participation rights.

  • European Court of Justice (ECJ) The supreme court of the European Union that oversees the application of the EU treaties and measures agreed by the Council of Ministers.

  • European Economic Area An agreement linking the EU with several former EFTA States (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). It became fully effective in 1994. The non-EU members adopt most EU laws and take part in action programmes, but are not part of the decision making machinery.

  • European Employment Strategy: The European Commission’s programme to boost jobs. Its “employment package” was launched in April 2012.

  • European Globalisation Fund Budget line for assisting workers find new employment when they become redundant. Administered through EU member states.

  • European Monetary Union The programme for introducing a common EU currency (the euro).

  • European Parliament Originally called an ‘assembly’. This is the key democratic decision making body for the European Union.

  • European Social Fund The main focus for EU funding directed towards the alleviation of unemployment and poverty. It also aims to create jobs, but has had little real impact in this field.

  • European Union (EU) The organisation of states that brings together the twenty seven states that form the principal economic and political bloc in Europe. The current members are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

  • European Works Council A body established to receive information and be consulted about transnational issues affecting workers in multinational companies. Subject to a Directive that became fully effective on September 22nd 1996. It has been subject to several subsequent modifications and extensions.

  • European Year Each year, the European Union designates a focus area for policy and associated propaganda.

  • Eurostat: The European Union’s statistical office (mainly based in Luxembourg).

  • Eurozone An area comprising all the countries that recognise the euro as their national currency.

  • Exemption Fields of application where a Treaty, Regulation or Directive does not apply.

  • Extractive Industries Onshore or offshore mineral operations. Subject to a sector health and safety Directive (1992).

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  • Factortame Spanish fishing case involving the UK government. This established the vulnerability of national governments to compensation when they wrongly implement EU legal measures (see Frankovitch).

  • Fédération des Employeurs Européens (The Federation of European Employers) The organisation for multinational employers operating across Europe.

  • Fifth Directive Measure proposed in October 1972. All public companies would have been required to elect worker representatives onto their (supervisory or main) boards. Not finally adopted.

  • Flexicurity Policies that seek to maximise labour flexibility and job security.

  • Foundation for the Improvement in Living and Working Conditions (EFILWC) EU-funded research body based in Dublin.

  • Frankovitch Italian case that demonstrated the vulnerability of national governments to claims for damages when they fail to implement an EU legal measure within an agreed time limit (see Factortame).

  • Freedom of Movement of People One of the principal ‘freedoms’ established in the Treaty of union.

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  • ILO The International Labour Office was established in 1919 to improve labour conditions throughout the world. It has a head office in Geneva, Switzerland and is now a constituent part of the United Nations.

  • Indirect Effect The obligation of national courts to interpret all domestic laws in the light of relevant Treaty rights and obligations, Directives, and other EU measures.

  • Infringement Proceedings Action initiated by the European Commission against member states that do not comply with EU legal obligations. The ultimate arbiter is the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

  • Information and Consultation The minimum level of worker involvement allowed for in EU social policy. See European Works Councils and Co-determination.

  • Intergovernmental Conference: meeting between Member State governments with a view to amending the EU Treaties

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  • Lay-off Temporary suspension of work, normally due to a decline in demand for goods or services. In many EU countries, laid-off workers are entitled to guaranteed payments.

  • Leonardo A fund set up to assist vocational training.

  • Lisbon treaty: The EU treaty that was concluded in 2007. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2012:326:FULL:EN:PDF

  • Lobbyist A person or organisation seeking to change the views of legislators about proposed measures, or to achieve modifications to existing measures.

  • Lugano Convention: Measure that extends the EU Brussels Convention on the enforcement of civil and commercial judgements to countries in the EFTA union.

  • Luxembourg Capital city of the small European state with the same name. It is the home of the European Court of Justice and a number of lower status European Commission offices.

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  • Maastricht Town in SE Netherlands. Amendments to the Rome Treaty that were agreed in October 1992 were named after the town where the Treaty was formally signed.

  • Majority Voting (Qualified) Agreement in Council involving a majority based on the relative voting power of different member states (i.e. the larger nations enjoy the highest points qualifications during voting).

  • Manual Handling A Directive aimed at reducing injury arising from physical stress at work (eg. lifting heavy weights).

  • Mission A business trip by a civil servant from the European Commission.

  • Monnet, Jean French politician. One of the principal founding fathers of the European movement and original EEC.

  • Mutual Recognition of Qualifications an important step in the achievement of free movement for the European citizen. See CEDEFOP.

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  • Nice Treaty A further revision of the EU Treaty (2001).  Its revisions paved the way for further EU expansion. Replaced by Lisbon Treaty.

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  • OCSC: Organisation providing a framework for pan-European risis management

  • Office for Official Publications Luxembourg based publishers of official EU documents.

  • Official Journals A series of regular publications (L, C and S). They contain details of proposed legislation, new legislation, official calls to tender and related information.

  • Opt-out A special facility given to one or more member states that allows them to ignore a specific element within a legislative measure or part of an agreed programme.

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  • Parental Leave The right to unpaid leave for childcare purposes. The subject of a European collective agreement (1996) and subsequent Directive.

  • Personal Protective Equipment Anything from a safety helmet to a thimble. Subject of a workplace health and safety Directive (1989).

  • Physical Agents Phenomena such as noise, vibration and electro magnetic induction. The subject of several important EU health and safety Directives.

  • Pillars The key policy areas upon which European integration is based. The first pillar is ‘economic union’, the second a ‘common foreign and security policy’ and the third ‘justice and home affairs’.

  • Plenary Session The general meetings of MEPs in the European Parliament. They are generally held about once a month and last for 3-4 days.

  • Political Agreement The stage reached during a Council of Ministers’ debate where the parties have reached a broad consensus of views. Not yet a final agreement.

  • Positive Action Also called ‘affirmative action’. The principle used in equal opportunities policies. According to its philosophical position, disadvantage is only likely to be removed if a temporary bias is accepted in favour of the disadvantaged group. A Council Recommendation on positive action for women was adopted in December 1984.

  • Posting of Workers See ‘subcontracting’.

  • President of the European Council: Post in charge of principal decision making body. Held by Herman Achille Van Rompuy since 2009

  • President of the European Commission: Head of affairs in the EU’s administration. held by José Manuel Durão Barroso  since 2004

  • Pregnancy Directive Employment protection measure agreed in October 1992 with an effective date of 19th October 1994. This created minimum standards for pregnant woman in the workplace including her right to return after childbirth.

  • PROGRESS Programme EU fund to support the development of EU policies in employment, working conditions, gender equality, social protection, social inclusion, non-discrimination and diversity.

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  • Ratification The formal incorporation of an EU legal measures into national legislation or the acknowledgment of an ILO convention by a member government.

  • Recommendation A decision reached by the Council of Ministers that does not have the full force of a Directive. It establishes desired standards, or end results, without requiring member states to incorporate the measure into national legislation. The weaker Commission Recommendation is a measure that is not universally accepted by all EU member states.

  • Regulations These are the strictest legal instruments that are issued by the Council of Ministers. They have immediate, direct and generally universal effect. Decisions made in the field of justice and home affairs may also be applied in a similar way.

  • Representative Office The local office of the European Commission in individual states around the world. They normally serve the function of public and press liaison.

  • Resolution Agreement by the members of an EU institution about a policy issue. It need not have direct implications for EU law.

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  • Safety Signs The standardization of such signs in the workplace was covered by an original Directive (1977) that was subsequently updated (1992).

  • Schengen Convention agreement between several of the EU states that relaxed passport controls for everyday movement of people across national borders.

  • Sector Measures Action by the European institutions in specific industrial or commercial areas (sectors) of the economy.

  • Short-Time Working A reduction in regular working hours, normally due to a decline in the demand for goods or services. It may also be introduced because of a workplace emergency such as a flood or fire. Short-time working in many EU countries is subject to statutory earnings guarantees.

  • Single European Act (SEA) Amendment to the Rome Treaty agreed in 1986. It extended the concept of qualified majority voting and sought to tighten up the major loopholes in the existing Treaty.

  • Single Market The new trading environment established after completion of the measures contained in the Single European Act (SEA) of 1986. It was meant to be fully effective by 1.1.1992.

  • Smoking in Public Places Workplaces are covered by a Council Recommendation of December 1988.

  • SNB Special Negotiating Body. The committee that multinational organisations must establish, on request, if they receive a valid request from their workforce to establish a European Works Council. See European Works Councils.

  • Social Chapter Article 118 of the Rome Treaty (1958). Now Article 137.

  • Social Charter The forty-point programme established by the EU following the Single European Act. Now incorporated into the EU Treaty.

  • Social Dialogue The achievement of European level social and employment reforms through an ‘idealised’ form of collective bargaining.

  • Social Dumping The process by which commercial organisations take advantage of poorer regions within the EU and perpetuate them through the provision of low paid jobs with poor working conditions.

  • Social Inclusion The involvement of under-privileged groups in society as a whole. A process to combat poverty and deprivation.

  • Social investment package: A European Commission initiative to encourage member states to modernise their social welfare policies.

  • Social Partnership A concept of industrial and social harmony arising from a positive, tripartite relationship between employers, employee representatives and government.

  • Social Protocol A section of the EU Treaty that deals with the extension of majority voting powers into the social and employment spheres.

  • Socrates An EU educational support fund.

  • Stabilisation and association agreement: Framework put in place to assist an EU candidate country meet the accession criteria.

  • Strasbourg The town in North East France originally chosen as the principal meeting place for the European Parliament. Also the home of the European Court of Human Rights.

  • Subcontracting The securing of temporary labour to complete projects on terms and conditions which may be inferior to those enjoyed by permanent, direct employees.

  • Subsidiarity The principle that all EU decisions should be taken at the most local level which is practicable. Only transnational matters are the domain of the European Institutions. Term much loved by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

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  • Ten Commandments for Employment Reform An expression first used by the European Commission to establish the priorities for employment policy across the EU.

  • Transfer of Undertakings (Acquired Rights) The process of merger, acquisition or contracting out which affects the employment relationship in one or more of the organisations concerned. The Transfer of Undertakings Directive (1977 now revised) sought to protect the terms and conditions of staff during this process.

  • Treaty of Rome (1958) The original Treaty signed by the seven countries that made up the European Economic Community (now called the European Union).

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  • Unanimity The traditional method by which ministerial decisions were reached by the Council. It required all countries to agree to a measure before it could become law.

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  • VDU / VDT Visual display unit / visual display terminal. Subject to a health and safety Directive agreed in 1990 (Implemented 1.1.93).

  • Vredling Original proposal for the introduction of worker information and consultation procedures into multinational enterprises operating in Europe.

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  • Whistleblower A person who reports information which they reasonably believe to be evidence of a criminal offence, an infringement of workplace rules or other matter that should be drawn to the attention of the appropriate, accountable parties.

  • Working Group A body of officials that meets ‘in camera’ to thrash out the details of a proposed EU measure (see COREPER).

  • Working Time The set of minimum health and safety standards relating to basic hours, shift and overtime hours, rest periods and holiday entitlements. Subject to a Directive effective on the 23rd November 1996 (Updated as 3003/88/EC).  Certain excluded sectors (such a transport operations) were excluded from the Directive, but have now largely been brought into line through a series of special measures.

  • Workplace Directive A framework EU measure (1989) that laid down comprehensive, minimum health and safety standards for all workplace activities.

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  • Xenophobia A hatred of foreigners. Discrimination on the basis of nationality is outlawed under Article 39 of the Treaty (ex Article 48).

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  • Young Persons Those aged under eighteen years. The subject of a health and safety Directive that was effective in June 1996. Now commonly used in employment statistics to refer to those aged under 25.

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