Strengthening the social components of the European Union – that is the main goal of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Following a comprehensive consultation process during 2016, to which the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) contributed as well the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the EU agreed upon the social pillar based on a recommendation issued by the Commission in April 2017. An interinstitutional proclamation was signed at the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg on November 17, 2017.
The proclamation consists of 20 key statements on social rights organised around three central topics: I. Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, II. Fair working conditions, and III. Social protection and inclusion. Some of these key statements are of particular relevance for the statutory accident insurance.
For instance, the Pillar points out the importance of education, including vocational training and lifelong learning. The institutions of the statutory accident insurance and the DGUV offer extensive programmes and training, particularly in the field of prevention. High levels of workers’ health and safety protection are also enshrined in the Social Pillar (statement 10). The statutory accident insurance, which has the mandate to prevent occupational accidents and diseases using all appropriate means, contributes to this goal through diverse preventative measures.
Further, employees and self-employed individuals in similar conditions should have the right to appropriate social protection (statement 12). Employees and certain self-employed groups are insured against accident by law, while other self-employed workers may also take out statutory accident insurance. The statutory accident insurance meets the goal of high quality health care and medical treatment (statement 16) through its mandate to provide comprehensive curative and rehabilitation treatment. It is also the aim of the statutory accident insurance to provide suitable measures to people with disabilities in order to allow them to reintegrate into their work and social life after an occupational accident or disease (statement 17).
Although the key statements described in the Social Pillar may seem like legally binding rights, they are in fact simply recommendations to the Member States. This was now clarified in the proclamation’s preamble upon the request of several Member States. The degree to which the non-binding character of the social pillar may change in the future remains uncertain. As the German Social Insurance (DSV) notes in a post on its website, in the past the European Court of Justice has used similar recommendations as a basis for the definition of general principles of Union law.