Today we have another ‘mad rules imposed by Brussels’ story that the Telegraph loves so much . Take a look at this article with the headline ‘New EU employment ruling could stifle British business’ Our old friend Louisa Peacock informs us that
Under rules, being drawn up by Spanish MEP Alejandro Cercas, employers planning job cuts will have to measure the “psychosocial health” of staff before and after laying off people. If there is a significant deterioration in workers’ mental health and well-being, companies would be forced to offer retraining, coaching on interview technique and general help with finding a new job as a compromise for letting them go.
Companies also face having to outline the impact of redundancies on the local community, including how they would regenerate the area if significant job cuts meant thousands of local people were suddenly out of work.
The proposals, which were voted through the European Parliament last month, are yet another example of the deluge of “burdensome” and “ridiculous” laws flooding Britain’s way from across the continent, according to manufacturers’ body, the EEF – at the very time that UK policymakers are trying to scrap red tape
So I thought I’d try to find this new law. This is my area after all, and if there is a big new law on redundancy coming then I really ought to start reading up on it. I dug around in the online resources of the EU and found the proposal that the article is talking about. You can read it here. Don’t feel obliged to read it all however because it’s very long and boring. The ‘psychosocial health’ point is at the bottom of page 14. It’s by no means the most important part of the draft directive – as far as I can tell; it is very boring – but you can see why the Telegraph would seize on it. Just the sort of politically correct nanny-state clap trap that they love to complain about.
But before I throw up my hands in horror at a new piece of legislation there is one thing I want to know first. Is this actually going to happen? All sorts of mad ideas get proposed and debated – in Westminster as much as Brussels. But my brain is becoming increasingly full in recent years and it now only has room for laws that are actually going to be adopted.
This is where the Telegraph article is seriously misleading. Although it does refer to the new law as ‘draft’ it does rather give the impression that it is certainly coming into force. It has, after all, been ‘voted through’ by the European Parliament.
Well, no. It hasn’t. And even if it had, that would just be the beginning of the story.
The process for handling this proposal is neatly set out here. The proposal was announced in the European Parliament in April and is scheduled for a vote in a plenary session in November. The Telegraph article says it was voted through last month, but I cannot find any record of this in the July proceedings of the Parliament and the timetable currently available makes it clear that it is still awaiting its first reading.
Of course we know what a lefty bunch the European Parliament are. They are bound to vote it through aren’t they? Truthfully, I have no idea. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I don’t care because even if they vote it through with no amendments it still won’t become law. Directives have to be proposed by the Commission and adopted by the Council. The European Parliament cannot force the Commission to propose legislation.
This proposal is being brought under the ‘own initiative’ procedure. That allows the Parliament to request the Commission to propose legislation. Under Article 225 of the Treaty the Commission must then either submit a proposal or (drum role) inform the Parliament of its reasons for not doing so.
As far as I can tell the Commission has not made any comment on this proposal so far, so there is no indication of whether it would agree to submit a proposal even if the Parliament asked it to.
And even if it did, that would just be the start of the process. We would then have years of consultation with the social partners, and horse-trading between the member states before a final text was arrived at which would then have to be voted on by the European Parliament.
In other words. This is probably not going to happen. If it does happen, it will take years to agree.
But saying that wouldn’t suit the narrative would it? The Telegraph could hardly write an article saying ‘there is some debate about whether a new directive on restructuring should be adopted, but this is at its very early stages, may not happen at all and it is highly unlikely that the current draft will remain unaltered: check back in a year or two to see if there’s any progress’. I’m probably just being hopelessly old-fashioned to expect the Telegraph to actually explain what it is happening rather than just have a lazy rant about Brussels.
File this one under ‘red tape scare story: no need for concern’