Select Committee on European Communities Report


18.  EXTENSION OF THE PART-TIME WORK DIRECTIVE (6714/98)

Letter from Ian McCartney MP, Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Chairman of Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs)

  I understand that your Committee has considered the draft Directive on the extension of the Part-time Work Directive 97/81/EC on the basis of the Explanatory Memorandum submitted on 17 March, and would like further information on the legal base of the Part-time Work Directive.

  I should emphasise that both the draft Directive to extend the Part-time Work Directive to the UK and the Part-time Work Directive itself are means by which we may implement the Framework Agreement on Part-time Work negotiated and concluded by the European social partners (the employer bodies, UNICE and CEEP, and the employee representatives, the ETUC) in June last year. The Framework Agreement explicitly provides for, among other things, the removal of discrimination against part-time workers in respect of employment conditions, and all member states agreed to implement it without interfering or changing it in any way.

  The point raised in paragraph 12 of the EM is a legal one, relating to the method by which agreements concluded by the social partners at Community level are to be implemented. Under Article 4(2) of the Agreement on Social Policy, this can be done for "matters covered by Article 2, at the joint request of the signatory parties, by a Council decision on a proposal by a Commission" (relevant extract of the Agreement on Social Policy, Protocol No. 14 attached). At the social partners' request, the Commission brought forward a proposal under Article 4(2) and the Part-time Work Directive was adopted by the other 14 member states on 15 December 1997. We recognise the intention of the social partners to cover discrimination in all aspects of working conditions, including pay. However, the Government notes that Article 2(6) of the Agreement on Social Policy states that the provisions of Article 2 "shall not apply to pay". We agree in principle that part-timers should not be paid less than comparable full-time workers pro rata, and will need to consider how best to give this effect in national legislation along with the other provisions of the framework agreement. As stated in the EM, implementation of the Part-time Work Directive may involve either, or both, primary legislation or regulations under the European Communities Act 1972. The Government will have two years for implementation from the date of adoption of the Directive's extension to the UK, on which we intend to consult widely.

  The proposal does not raise any new issues since the Part-time Work Directive proposal was debated in December. I hope that this further information is helpful.

30 March 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Ian McCartney MP, Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry

  Thank you for your letter of 30 March to Lord Wallace of Saltaire clarifying the position as regards the legal base of the Part-Time Work Directive.

  The Sub-Committee notes that it appears to be the intention of the social partners to cover discrimination in all aspects of working conditions including pay. The Sub-Committee agrees with the Government that it would appear to be outside the scope of the Agreement on Social Policy to implement under Article 2 an agreement which has been concluded between the social partners at Community level and which relates to pay.

  The Sub-Committee concludes from your analysis of the legal base and your reference to "implementation" of the Directive by "either, or both, primary legislation or regulations under the European Communities Act 1972" that if the Government were to apply the agreement in the United Kingdom to discrimination relating to pay, primary legislation would be necessary.

  This letter clears the Document from scrutiny.

1 April 1998


 
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