European Union Law Briefing - April 2019

EU Parliament backs whistleblower protection directive

On Tuesday 16 April, the European Parliament voted in favour of a new directive which would protect whistleblowers who are reporting on breaches of Union law. 

With the backing of 591 MEPs, the directive will mean that people will not risk punishment - or losing their jobs - should they take steps to expose wrongdoing, or flagrant breaches of EU law. 

Article 1 outlines the scope of the new regime:

'Persons who work for a public or private organisation or are in contact with it in the context of their work-related activities are often the first to know about threats or harm to the public interest which arise in this context. By "blowing the whistle" they play a key role in exposing and preventing breaches of the law that are harmful to the public interest and in safeguarding the welfare of society. However, potential whistleblowers are often discouraged from reporting their concerns or suspicions for fear of retaliation. In this context, the importance of providing balanced and effective whistleblower protection is increasingly acknowledged both at European and international level.'

This new directive aims to rectify the legislative gaps in areas lke procurement, which is dealt with specifically in Article 6 and will aid enforcement of rules relating to the purchasing of goods and services by national public authorities - as breaches of such rules are in effect a 'distortion of competition'.

The draft directive can be accessed in full here. For further reading on the history of whistle-blower protection in Ireland, see Kelleher: Privacy and Data Protection Law in Ireland.


Minimum rights fixed for 'gig economy' workers

In a vote held on Tuesday 16 April, the European Parliament has voted to grant a minimum level of protection to workers in the so-called 'gig economy' sector - which includes the likes of Deliveroo and other on-demand forms of employment.

A statement from the EP reads:

'This would mean that workers in casual or short-term employment, on-demand workers, intermittent workers, voucher-based workers, platform workers, as well as paid trainees and apprentices, deserve a set of minumum rights, as long as they meet these criteria and pass the threshold of working 3 hours per week and 12 hours per 4 weeks on average. Genuinely self-employed workers would be excluded from the new rules'.

The new specific rights are as follows:

  • Workers should benefit from a minimum level of predictability such as predetermined hours or days and they should also be able to refuse an assignment outside these predetermined hours or be compensated if the assignment is not cancelled in time.
  • Member States shall adopt measures to prevent abuses practices, such as limits to the use and duration of the contract.
  • The employer should not prohibit, penalise or hinder workers from taking jobs with other companies if this falls outside the work schedule established with that employer.

According to rappoteur Enrique Calvet Chambon: 'This directive is the first big step towards implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, affecting all EU workers'.

The final text was adopted with 466 votes to 145, with 37 abstentions. MS will have thre years to put the rules into practice. For further reading on the protection of casual employees in Ireland, see Regan and Murphy: Employment Law.


Request for preliminary ruling in surfing and sailing tuition case

In the ongoing case of HA v Finanzamt Hamburg-Barmbek-Uhlenhorst which is currently before the court of Finanzgericht Hamburg, a request for a preliminary ruling has been lodged with the ECJ

The case, which has at its core the question as to whether sailing and surfing tuition can rightly be considered education for the purposes of a VAT exemption, referred five questions to the ECJ, the first of which was as follows:

  1. Does the concept of school and university education in Art 132(1)(i) and (j) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of VAT (Directive 2006/112) also include surfing and sailing tuition? Is it sufficient if such tuition is offered in at least one school or university in the Member State?

The application may be accessed in full here



Note: This is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. Any errors should be notified to the editor and will be dealt with accordingly.

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