The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 8 December 2016 in Brussels. The Minister for Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), represented the UK.
The Council reached a general approach on the revision of the governing regulations of the Eurofound, EU-OSHA and CEDEFOP agencies. The UK, along with all member states and the Commission, supported the proposal.
The presidency provided a progress report on the revision of the posting of workers directive. There were interventions from 22 member states. The UK intervention stressed the importance of legal clarity so that workers understood their rights and businesses understood the rules. The presidency also provided progress reports on the European Accessibility Act and the equal treatment directive.
There was a policy debate on the European pillar of social rights. The UK intervention stressed the need to respect subsidiarity and member states’ own labour market approaches. The UK welcomed the Commission’s communication that the social pillar should include flexibility about participation for non-eurozone countries. This was followed by a lunch time discussion on social innovation where the UK outlined its experience with social investment.
The Commission presented analysis from the European Semester which was followed by an exchange of views on the European Semester. Ministers also considered the draft recommendations for the eurozone countries. The UK welcomed the Commission’s findings and the priorities identified for the year ahead.
The Council adopted draft Council conclusions on accelerating the process of Roma integration, women and poverty, and the youth guarantee and youth employment initiative. The Commission also introduced the European solidarity corps, launched earlier that week.
Under any other business, the Swedish and German delegations called on the Commission to upgrade the status of its gender equality strategy, the presidency provided an update on omnibus regulations and the new skills agenda for Europe, and the Austrian delegation provided an update on the Special Olympics world winter games. The presidency presented the outcome of conferences organised during their presidency and the Maltese delegation presented their work programme for their presidency.