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Member states entitled to provide own definition of worker

April 2012 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

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General employment law news
The EU Court recently ruled that member states are entitled to provide their own definition of what a ‎worker is – as long as the definition is not arbitrary.‎
Employers are not allowed to treat part-time workers less favourably than their full-time colleagues. This ‎principle is enshrined in an EU directive – but only “workers” are protected by the directive.‎
In the UK, part-time judges do not have the same pension rights as their full-time counterparts. But since ‎judges have traditionally not been regarded as being covered by the concept of worker, the UK ‎Government did not believe that judges were protected by the Part-Time Workers Directive.‎
The UK court was unsure, however, whether it is up to the member states themselves to make their own ‎definition of worker or whether this is for the EU to decide. It therefore referred the question to the EU ‎Court for a preliminary ruling.‎
Member states entitled to define
The EU Court ruled that member states are entitled to provide their own definition of what a worker is. ‎Therefore, the UK was entitled to decide whether judges should be regarded as workers or not.‎
But the definition must not be arbitrary. The Court therefore made it a requirement that the relationship ‎between judges and their employing authority must differ substantially from the definition of worker ‎under UK law.‎
Norrbom Vinding notes:
  • that the ruling shows that although it has been left to the member states to provide their own ‎definition of what a worker is, there are in fact certain requirements under EU law to this ‎definition.‎
The above does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such

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