Effect of EU Employment Policy on Management

EU Legal Regulations in the Areas of Employment and Social Policy and How These Have Impacted Managers/Organisations

The influence of the European Union has been pervasive, and this is particularly true of developments in the areas of employment law and associated social policies. These policies have been aimed at augmenting the employment rights of workers within organisations, as well as improving their working conditions. Intersection points between social policy and employment regulations are a nuanced and complex subject area and this topic is an ideal focal point for the researcher interested in how European policies have impacted the roles and responsibilities of managers in the United Kingdom. The areas of employment policy regulations and social policy regulations are often symbiotic in nature. Therefore if one decides to embark upon a research initiative investigating the situation of workers within organisations within the European Union, it is difficult to conduct credible research without considering the areas of employment and social policy simultaneously.

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The writer proposes to examine how managers and other actors in similar roles have responded to this arguably more onerous and paternalistic conception of their duties[1]. A particular focus will be taken in the research and this will be health and safety legislation. This is a concept which has been influenced by both legal regulatory efforts within the European Union. Health and safety legislation also reflects the wider social policy goals of the European Union. Indeed as Randall ((2000) p34) has noted: ‘Promoting safety at work and protecting and improving the health of workers appear among the fundamental objectives for which the EC….[2]’. Therefore, the theoretical research objectives of this project are twofold. Firstly, the role of the European Union in terms of social policy and employment regulation will be looked at, and at a more micro level the area of health and safety at work will be looked at in terms of the role played my managers at operationalising European policies in the area of health and safety within organisations.

The Research Question

Therefore to recap the main thrust of the proposal for research; the writer feels that a good focal point for this project will be where social policy and employment regulation intersect. Therefore, the question of health and safety at work in the European Union will be the specific focus of the project, but this research focus will be contextualised with a wider examination of the role of the European Union in terms of social and employment policy. The literature review will focus on these two levels of analysis, and this will be used as a platform to introduce an original primary research orientated study on the impact of EU health and safety regulatory initiatives on managers within organisations. The research question will build upon this analysis by surveying the views of mangers in British corporate organisations in an effort to gauge how successful the EU have been in operationalising their social policy objectives in the area of health and safety employment policy. Other actors with expertise in this area will also be consulted.

A key question here will be what effect the operation of the doctrine of supremacy has had upon the effectiveness of EU oversight of health and safety at work. Therefore one of the central research questions will be aimed at finding out whether the centralisation of control of health and safety policy (with the European Commission) has impacted upon the effectiveness of its implementation within member states such as the United Kingdom.

This will enable the writer to principally gauge the opinions of those charged with the day to day implementation of health and safety employment policies, and to in doing so to identify any systemic or policy failures that may serve to reduce the overall effectiveness of health and safety employment policy. This will allow the writer to formulate a model of recommendations which may be able to address any specific failures in the implementation of health and safety employment policy and make suggestions as to how the system may be improved.

Literature Review

The literatures which will be used are those which will provide instruction on the development of the EU’s role in the implementation of social and employment policy, with a particular emphasis on the development of health and safety employment policy. These texts have been chosen as they will provide a comprehensive background to the study, adding depth and structure.

Roberts and Springer ((2001) p152) have made the following comment upon the role of the European Union in terms of social policy and the regulation of workers in the workplace:

‘As the European Union prepares for the twenty-first century, it has a social policy adapted to the prevailing conditions and expectations of its citizens…..social policy no longer has an important advocate in Brussels or an ambitious agenda….It is an interactive policy in which diverse actors participate in all aspects of it. The EU operates as a regulatory state and shares its roles in policymaking and policy implementation with numerous actors in a process best described as multilevel governance. Traditional European social values blended with the market values….[3]’.

Therefore, it is clear that the European Union recognises the importance of formulating an approach to social policy which is co-operative and aims not to thwart business and corporate actors in the European Union setting. This is a rationale which is clear also, at a micro level in terms of the implementation and regulation of health and safety employment policy at European Union level. A more in depth analysis of this topic and how it has evolved historically will follow below, in order to explain this rationale more fully.

Article 3e (Title 1) of the ECSC Treaty contained the first indications that the health and safety of European Union workers was to be a concern dealt with at European Union level. These measures were incorporated into the Treaty of Rome and this incorporation invested the European Commission with specific competencies in the determination of the European Union’s approach to health and safety policy. The EURATOM Treaty, which was ratified in 1957 created the first initiative which was aimed at protecting the health and safety of workers uniformly at European Union level.

Article 118 of the Treaty of Rome advocated co-operation between member states on the subject of health and safety legislation, and the role of the European Union was to facilitate partnerships between various actors responsible for health and safety policy. These actors included trade unions, governments, employers and international organisations. Randall ((2000) p34) has explained the rationale of the European Union in this consultative process:

‘The architects of the European Community (EC), not just contemporary Commission historians, had concluded that one of the principal requirements for developing a multinational agreement on health and safety….was the presentation of proposals strongly endorsed by expert opinion. While the ECSC had sought, for some time, to draw experts into its work to reduce accidents in the mineral-extracting industries the High Authority (forerunner to the European Commission) had also learnt how important it was to work with the grain of member state opinion….….[4]’.

In a more contemporary setting, the European Union continues to regulate the health and safety of workers at European Union level, however this regulation is now directed in a more centralised setting, as the European Commission grows in power and influence. Arguably, therefore the emphasis on consultation which (as we have seen explained above) was historically such a central tenet of heath and safety policy at European level, has become a less popular method of building consensus among member states and corporate actors.

The area of health and safety at work is also governed by legislation at domestic level, within each member state. In Britain the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 mainly requires employers to carry out risk assessments and to appoint qualified and competent individuals to oversee health and safety in the workplace. Emergency procedures must be implemented at individual organisation level and these must be communicated to staff in a clear manner. Staff must also receive health and safety training[5].

The next section will look at how a research design may be implemented to evaluate both the effectiveness of the EU’s role in terms of formulating social policy and to evaluate how those whose responsibility it is to implement these policies at grassroots level (i.e. within organisations) have responded to increased EU regulation in this area.

A Research Design

The research design will involve a methodologically pluralistic design. This essentially means that both qualitative and quantitative methods will be used to facilitate the gathering of information[6]. A semi structured interview usually involves the trading of information on a two way basis, and this method will be relied upon as the main method of research. The main reason for this particular choice of method is that this subject is one that lends itself to qualitative discussion. This method will be complemented by the use of a survey which will add depth and a degree of perspective to the methodology.

The writer decided to rely on the semi structured interview as the main method of qualitative enquiry as opposed to the focus group for example, for practical reasons. Within corporate organisations such as the targeted publics of this research proposal, confidentiality is a primary concern. The success of the writer’s project will be contingent upon the ability of particular individuals to be frank and open about their views, and this is not always possible in a focus group setting. Also, there is the practical consideration of where the focus groups might have been carried out, given the fact that the writer’s proposed research will involve a consultation of a diverse range of actors within differing locations within the UK. Therefore, semi structured interviews and surveys are the best way for an individual to solicit the viewpoints of those managers or other actors who are responsible for the implementation health and safety policies within corporate organisations.

The writer will also approach organisations, such as trade unions and employers organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry to gather information which may be used to formulate a detailed chronology or EU interventions in terms of health and safety policy, and this can be used to compliment the literature which will form the theoretical basis of the study.

A survey of mangers within organisations will be used to firstly gauge the views of managers and other actors responsible for the implementation of health and safety employment policy as to how successful European Interventions have been in the area of heath and safety employment policy and secondly, to gather a body of opinion on how health and safety legislation may be improved. These results will enable the writer to form views, for example on whether the role of the European Commission in the oversight of health and safety legislation has been an effective one. The next section will detail a breakdown of the implementation of this research design.

A GANNT chart for Project Management and Discussion of Implementation






Research and

Introduction and

Literature Review

June 15th

Two Weeks

Library, Computers

Approx. 1st of July

Interviews and Survey

1st of July

Three weeks

Respondents, Tape

Recorder, Venues

Approx. 21st of July

Write Up Results

21st of July

Four Weeks

Computer, Excel

21st of August


21st of August

Approx. Two and a

Half Weeks


8th of September

Outline of Chapter Headings

Introduction: EU Employment and Social Policy: The Role of the Commission

Literature Review: Case Study: Health and Safety at Work; The Impact of EU Measures on British Corporate Organisations


Conclusion and Recommendations

Evaluation: Possible Problems and Barriers to Completion

Limited resources will possibly be a barrier to completion; however the writer intends to address this by adherence to a strictly organised and pre-planned research plan. The writer anticipates that this will also allow for cost minimising strategies to be implemented (for example letters will be sent out inviting respondents to interview, rather than reliance on telephone communication which is more expensive). Another possible problem and barrier to completion is that the respondents interviewed may not be necessarily representative of the entire body of corporate actors who implement health and safety employment policy.

This problem will be addressed by the writer in two ways. Firstly, it is anticipated that appropriate planning will allow for the body of respondents to be selected in such a way as to allow an equal number of men and women, and an appropriate distribution of respondents in terms of race and age to be included in the study. Also, the writer feels that it may be necessary to travel to more than one location for the purposes of conducting interviews. The writer is also aware that health and safety legislation is implemented by a number of actors, not just corporate actors. However, these limitations will be justified throughout the research and as long as the writer does not attempt to make unjustified generalisations, and as long as the writer acknowledges the limitations that the research encountered, problems and barriers to research should not negate the importance and relevance of the proposed project.

In conclusion this project intends to evaluate the effectiveness of the European Union as an overseer of health and safety employment legislation. It will be targeted at gathering the views of actors who implement health and safety employment policy, and it will also be aimed at gathering the viewpoints of those individuals such as trade associations and employers who have first hand experience of implementing the social policy objectives of the EU. This will enable the writer to critically examine how the system of health and safety employment policy operates and to suggest possible improvements.


Buse. K., Fustukian, S. and Lee, K. (2002) Health Policy in a Globalising World. Publisher: Cambridge University Press. Place of Publication: Cambridge, England.

Frankfort-Nachmias, C. and Nachmias, D. (1996) Research Methods in the Social Sciences. Publisher: Arnold Publishers. Place of Publication; London.

Randall, E. (2000) The European Union and Health Policy. Publisher: St. Martin’s Press. Place of Publication: New York.

Roberts, I. and Springer, B. (2001) Social Policy in the European Union: Between Harmonization and National Autonomy. Publisher: Lynne Rienner. Place of Publication: Boulder, CO.


Health and Safety Executive (2003) Health and Safety Regulation.

Available at: << http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsc13.pdf >>.


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