EU employment law

Collective employment relations in the EU

Collective employee representation - for example by trade unions - is a central part of European Union (EU) regulation of employment relations.

In all the member states of the EU, joining a trade union is a fundamental employment right. The EU also has rules on workers' and employers' rights to take collective industrial action - including the right of workers to strike. EU law on collective industrial relations is similar to what already exists in many member states.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining is the most important industrial relations process within the EU.

Each member state will have its own set of collective agreements. The agreements tend to cover pay and other general terms of employment, eg working hours and annual leave.

Such agreements may have been reached between one or more trade unions and:

  • a single employer
  • multiple employers within a particular business sector
  • multiple employers across multiple business sectors

Eurofound's European Observatory of Working Life (EurWORK) provides industrial relations information by member state.

Key employer and worker representative organisations

The most important organisation representing workers in the EU is the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). ETUC is recognised by the EU, the Council of Europe and the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein). Most national trade union confederations are affiliated with ETUC.

BusinessEurope is an advocate for growth and competitiveness at European level and represents all sizes of business.

Important: This information is still current but could change as a result of the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. Any changes will be documented here. For more information, see Brexit support for employers.