In July 2013, the European Commission released the results of the Fitness Check pilot project launched in 2010 to evaluate the effectiveness of three information and consultation Directives: the 1998 collective redundancies Directive, the 2001 transfer of undertakings Directive, and the 2002 Framework Directive on information and consultation of workers. Overall, the Commission’s assessment is positive; however, some deficiencies have also been identified.

This “evidence-based” evaluation procedure aims to identify excessive burdens, overlaps, gaps, or inconsistencies which may have emerged over time. According to the report, the three information and consultation Directives under scrutiny were deemed to be “generally relevant, effective, coherent, and mutually reinforcing.” The benefits generated by the information and consultation legislation were found to be likely to outweigh the costs.

However, the assessment also revealed a number of shortcomings. The exclusion of public administration organisations, seafarers, and particularly small businesses means that a significant share of the workforce does not actually have access to these rights. There are clear enforcement and compliance gaps in practice; these are particularly apparent in countries with less developed traditions of statutory workers’ representation, such as the UK and Ireland, or many of the new Member States.

The evaluation goes on to outline some measures which could improve the application of the three Directives’ provisions, such as promoting an information and consultation culture among social partners, strengthening participatory institutions, promoting negotiated agreements on information and consultation, disseminating good practice and raising awareness, and ensuring enforcement of the provisions in national law and practice.

With the aim of redressing the apparent lack of consistency in the scope and operations of these three Directives, the Commission has since announced its intention to consider simplifying and/or consolidating them into one piece of legislation as part of its recently announced REFIT approach to better regulation. Since any legislative action in this field would necessarily be preceded by a consultation of the European social partners, the trade unions will be following this issue with particularly close attention.

The Staff Working Document, which lays out the results of the Information and Consultation Fitness Check in more detail, and also outlines some possible responses to the identified shortcomings of the Directive, can be found here.