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European worker rights: Employment Framework Directive

18th Oct 2000
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European Union workers won new rights against workplace discrimination on grounds of race, disability, age, religion or sexual orientation last night. However, agreement was only reached after compromise over whether the Employment Framework Directive would apply to the armed forces.

During more than five hours of talking, ministers from the 15 member states backed the directive to impose legal sanctions against employers that discriminate against their workers. The package aims to protect workers from unfair treatment in the selection of employees, their promotion and their working conditions.

Both Britain and Ireland placed strong objections to parts of the directive. Britain sought an exemption for armed forces from the legislation when dealing with discrimination on grounds of age and disability. In return they won a six year grace period for implementation of parts of the act.

Ireland called for concessions to proposed laws against religious discrimination to protect teacher recruitment policies in both Catholic and Protestant schools.

The Confederation of British Industry was cool about the proposed measures, saying that, while it accepted much of the directive, elements would be difficult for industry.

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