The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 7 December 2015 in Brussels. Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, represented the UK.
The Council held a detailed discussion on the women on company boards directive but was unable to reach an agreement. The UK was part of the blocking group, with Baroness Neville-Rolfe setting out the significant success which had been achieved through the UK’s business led, voluntary approach.
The Council reached political agreement on a recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market.
The European Commission presented the annual growth survey 2016 and a draft Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area, with views invited from member states. The UK intervened to welcome the package presented while raising concerns that issues relating to jobs and growth should continue to be discussed by all 28 member states, not just those in the eurozone.
The Commission presented measures to advance equal treatment of LGBTI people, with the UK highlighting actions it had taken at a national level such as equal marriage. There was an exchange of views on the strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019 and the Council took stock of progress on the equal treatment directive.
The Council adopted conclusions on equality between women and men in the area of decision making, the promotion of the social economy as a key driver of economic and social development in Europe and social governance for an inclusive Europe.
Under any other business, the presidency informed the Council about the successful negotiations with the European Parliament on both the EURES network and the platform against undeclared work.
The Commission set out the Accessibility Act proposal. The UK stated that the draft proposal must be in line with shared objectives on the single market and must have a firm evidence base with an impact assessment, but did welcome the lighter regime for small and micro businesses. The Commission gave a presentation on the youth employment pact which highlighted that the pact had created partnerships between educational organisations and businesses. Finally, the Luxembourg delegation drew attention to the various initiatives and conferences they had undertaken as part of their presidency.