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Termination of employment relationships
Legal situation in the Member States of the European Union

European Commission

Termination of employment relationships
Legal situation in the Member States of the European Union

European Commission Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Unit D2 Manuscript completed in April 2006

The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs. This document is available in English only.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. This synthesis report aims at providing an overview of the legal situation as regards termination of employment relationships in the 15 Member States of the preenlargement European Union 1. The report updates the original 1997 Report which was the fruit of co-operation between the Commission and the Member States; the information set out in the original report was assembled on the basis of contributions from the Member States and they subsequently checked its accuracy. This updated report adheres to the format and structures of the original report and is based on the information provided by the national experts named in the introduction. 2. Labour law across the EU-15 has gradually introduced limits to ad nutum dismissal that is summary, unjustified dismissal in the context of a contract of indefinite duration. Sources of law on dismissal 3. The main source of rules on individual dismissals in most Member States is the law in the broad sense. Collective agreements are most frequently used to adjust the statutory provisions on periods of notice or dismissal on disciplinary grounds, for example. The role of judge-made law, especially in the interpretation of laws, is also important. The role of custom is, on the whole, relatively limited. The Notice Period 4. A first limit on freedom to dismiss is the period of notice which applies in all the Member States. There are major differences in notice periods in the Member States as shown in table 3 of the report. The employer is 1

usually dispensed from giving notice in the event of dismissal on grounds attributable to the worker, summary dismissal or in the event of force majeure and during the probationary period. The legal arrangements governing complete or partial failure to comply with the notice period also vary from one Member State to another: the tendency in most Member States is to provide for payment of a sum equal to the remuneration the worker would have received during his or her notice period. Verification of grounds 5. In all the Member States the wish of the employer is no longer sufficient in itself to justify dismissal. All the legal systems provide, through various means, for checks on the grounds underlying the decision to dismiss. 6. First, dismissal on certain grounds is prohibited. These grounds are set out in tables 1(a) to 1(c) in Appendix II to the report. Another means of preventing arbitrary dismissal used by certain Member States is the so-called technique of abuse of law which the worker may invoke; consideration is then given to whether the grounds for the decision to dismiss were well founded. In practical terms this technique is really no different from the requirement to give notice or to justify dismissal. 7. In principle, the rule that any unjustified dismissal is unlawful is to be found in all Member States. The Member States provide for exceptions to the need for grounds for certain groups of workers or during the probationary period. Some Member States have lists of

Studies on the legal situation in the Member States that joined the EU in 2004, as well as Bulgaria and Romania are on-going. A synthesis report will be published in the beginning of 2007.

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reasons which can justify dismissal, but there are big differences in the scope for determining them. Most legal systems have opted for a general clause. A distinction is...
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