Over time, both the volume and complexity of employment law that originates in the EU has grown considerably. When the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, membership brought with it few requirements in the field of employment regulation. The Treaty of Rome contained an article committing member states to enforce the principle of equal pay for equal work between men and women, but this was already in the process of being introduced in the UK at that time. Later, as the European Economic Community changed into the European Community and more recently into the European Union (EU), it has become more and more common for all member states to legislate in order to give effect to employment laws which originate at the European level and which apply across the whole EU. As far as the UK is concerned, new EU labour law sometimes requires Parliament to amend existing laws in order to bring them into line with European requirements. On other occasions there has been an obligation to create entirely new employment rights which would not have possibly been introduced in the UK was it not for its membership of the EU. The scope of EU law in the employment field has expanded very considerably as many more areas become 'areas of European Competence' and therefore subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The first big expansion of ‘European Competence’ in the employment field came in 1992 as a result of the Single European Act which was agreed by all member governments in 1986. This paved the way for the introduction of health and safety regulations which seek to ensure that the same high standards of health and safety management are observed in all workplaces across the EU. Later, following the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 with its Social Chapter, ‘European competence’ in the field of employment regulation has spread into several different areas. The UK signed up to the Social Chapter in 1997, since when a substantial proportion of new employment law with a European origin has been introduced. The main areas of ‘European competence’ as far as employment law is concerned are now in the following areas: * health and safety
* transfers of undertakings (that is rights that protect workers when the identity of their employer changes) * discrimination on grounds of sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion/belief * working time
* data protection
* information and consultation
* atypical workers (that is, part-timers, fixed-term employees and agency workers). Sources of European law
European law takes one of three principal forms. These are Treaty Articles, Regulations and Directives. Treaty Articles
As the EU is made up of twenty-seven independent, sovereign countries, its constitutional powers are set out in the wording of treaties which are negotiated by the member governments and then, once agreed, ratified by national parliaments (or sometimes through referenda held in the Member States) and signed by the heads of Government. Every few years, in order for the EU, to extend its powers or to reform its institutions, a new treaty is negotiated, ratified and signed. The most recent is the Treaty of Lisbon which came into effect in December 2009. This effectively superseded the Treaties of Nice (2003) and Amsterdam (1999). These amending treaties make reference to the two so-called 'main treaties' which set out the constitutional arrangements of the EU in detail. These are The Treaty of Rome (known as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) which dates from 1958 and the more recent Treaty of Maastricht (known as the Treaty on European Union) which came into effect in 1993. Treaty articles have what is known in law as 'direct effect' whenever they are 'clear and precise', unconditional and unqualified' and are not the subject of any additional measures brought forward under EU law. This...
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