Ministers Agree on Working Time Directive
The latest Slovenian Presidency can be proud of its success in finding an agreement within theMinisters Council after three years of debate on the reformof the working time directive.
Under the newly found deal, workers are limited to a weeklymaximumof 48 hours, but the social partners are allowed to find ‘flexible arrangements’ if granted approval by the employer. Workers could effectively put in up to 60-65 weekly hours, which was one of the UK government's main demands, while Spain and other nations lobbied heavily against it and voted against.
Themain points of agreement in the working time directive are: on-call time to be split into active and inactive on-call time. Active on-call time to be counted as working time; inactive on-call timemay not be counted as rest time and can be counted as working time if national laws or social partners agree; standardmaximumlimit remains at 48 working hours per week unless an individual worker chooses otherwise (opt-out); new protective limit (cap) for workers who opt out:maximumworking week of 60 hours unless social partners agree otherwise; new cap for workers who opt-out if inactive on-call time is counted as working time: maximumworking week of 65 hours; the cap protects all workers employed for longer than 10 weeks with one employer; opt-out only under certain conditions, such as: no signature during firstmonth of employment, no victimisation for not signing or withdrawing opt-out, employers must keep records on working hours of opted-out workers.
It is now up to the European Parliament to wave the proposal through. Already today, the agreement paves the way for the Commission to present a comprehensive social package in the coming weeks.
At the same time, agreement was also reached on strengthening the rights of temporary agency workers, granting them the same rights in areas like holiday and sick pay as their permanent colleagues.
EU Crossborder Healthcare Directive
Beginning July, the Comission adopted a proposal for a directive to facilitate the application of European patients’ rights in relation to crossborder healthcare. Despite several clear European Court of Justice rulings confirming that the EU Treaty gives individual patients the right to seek healthcare in other member states and be reimbursed at home, uncertainty remains over how to apply the principles of this jurisprudence more generally.With this proposal the Commission aims to provide legal certainty on this issue.
This directive, once adopted by the Council and the European Parliament, will provide a clear framework for crossborder care. It will provide clarity over how these rights can be exercised and the level of financial coverage that is provided for crossborder care. The directive will also facilitate European cooperation on healthcare.
Healthcare was excluded from the scope of the directive on services in the internalmarket. The Council and theParliament asked theCommission to address issues relating to crossborder healthcare in a separate instrument.
MEPs Call for European Organ Donor Card
On 22 April, the European Parliament adopted a report on the Commission’s proposals for EU action on organ donation. The intitiative aims to improve cooperation between member states on the issue andmake recommendations on the way forward. Reducing the organ and donor shortage is “the main challenge that EU member states face with regard to organ transplantation”, foundMEPs. They proposed a wide range of measures, including a European donor card, to tackle problems like organ shortage, transplantation risks and organ trafficking.
The European Parliament stressed that organ donation must stay “strictly noncommercial” and should be made altruistically and voluntarily, ruling out payments between donors and recipients.
Proposing the introduction of a European donor card, complementary to existing national systems, MEPs also noted that those who are not suitable donors should be encouraged to carry a card to that effect as well in order to facilitate a swift identification of organs. Additionally,member states shouldmake it possible to appoint a legal representative who can decide on donation after one’s death, states the report.
Finally,MEPs recognised that it is “vitally important to improve the quality and safety of organ donation and transplantation” to reduce transplant risks. Hence, the Parliament looks forward to the Commission’s proposal for a directive setting requirements to assure the quality and safety for organ donation across the EU.
EU to Act on Health Security
During the current French Presidency, the Commission is to launch discussions on health security issues and how the EU action should be structured in this field.
The EU executive has presented a specific ‘health security package’ includingon the long-awaited cross-border health care proposal (see next item and (E)Hospital 2/2008). This has been confirmed by Public health director Andrzej Rysz at DGSanco at the European Commission.
Defining some of the future EU health priorities, Dr. Rys said these were to ensure a safe, efficient and equitable access to crosborder healthcare and tackling major health threats.
According to Commission sources, there could also be important developments in the implementation mechanism of the EU health strategy, including an increased EU involvement. In particular, a specific Commission-Council group could be established to plan the strategy and assure its overall coherence with the real health problems faced by member states.