In a recent trip to various cities in Europe, including Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and London, I learned that European countries have laws protecting employee rights, even if employees aren’t doing work that’s up to par. Employees cannot simply be written up – a series of things needs first, which protects them from being immediately affected. In the name of social responsibility, European laws favor the employee to a degree that many Americans would consider unusually advantageous.
Established in 1973, the Europe Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has defending European employees and is concerned about the social responsible employers and their overall impact on society. For European employers, it’s not as easy as initiating an employee performance program without taking ETUC laws into consideration.
Unlike theUS, where steps in performance improvement can be taken without going through a detailed process, it seems the ETUC protects its employees and their job security in a way which may seem to negatively impact their performance. Surprisingly, performance is not a legal criterion for selection inEurope.
According to the 2002 paper “Quality of Work and Employment in Europe Issues and Challenges” by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, it appears that quality is becoming a more important issue, versus the mere quantity of work delivered. This paper focuses on promoting performance quality, meaning:
- career and employment security;
- maintaining and promoting employee health and well-being;
- developing skills and competency; and
- reconciling work and non-work life.
One of the organizations I visited in Paris is undergoing a merger, in which two large airlines will begin a talent assessment process to determine redundancy. When I asked whether performance and quality of work is a factor in the decision, the answer was a quick no. Employment laws in Europe and unions agreements decide employment based on seniority, number of children, etc. In other words, the longer an employee has been with the company and the more children he or she has means the company is more obligated socially to retain that employee, as opposed to another employee who hasn’t been working there as long or is single.
Another financial organization I investigated is using 360-degree feedback to assess employees. Although they can’t directly use the results for evaluation, the idea is to improve performance and use the data for developmental purposes. This organization indicated that European employment laws prohibit use of 360-degree feedback a form of performance evaluation, specifically to determine employee retention based on performance. Rather, 360-degree feedback is intended to develop skills individually.
The question comes back to how European employers ensure their employees are fulfilling their obligations or developing into better workers, where employment laws and unions favor employees. Is it right to assume that employee quality should only be considered before offering a job, or should other criteria be introduced to help develop the workforce?
It will be interesting to see how the future shapes these laws and what criteria will influence them, as well as their success in promoting social responsibility.
Eurofound, ‘Quality of Work and Employment in Europe– Issues and Challenges’ 2002 (http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2002/12/en/1/ef0212en.pdf)
What do think of these laws? Do you think they go too far in favoring the employee? Should similar laws be introduced in the US?