European Commission calls for action in protecting seasonal workers

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The European Commission has presented guidelines to ensure the protection of seasonal workers in the EU in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. It provides guidance to national authorities, labour inspectorates, and social partners to guarantee the rights, health and safety of seasonal workers, and to ensure that seasonal workers are aware of their rights.

Cross-border seasonal workers enjoy a broad set of rights, but given the temporary nature of their work, they can be more vulnerable to precarious working and living conditions. The coronavirus pandemic has given more visibility to these conditions, and in some cases exacerbated them. In some cases such problems can increase the risk of COVID-19 clusters.

Nicolas Schmit, the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “Each year, hundreds of thousands of seasonal workers help to underpin hugely important sectors of the EU’s economy, such as food and agriculture. The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the challenging living and working conditions they face. This has to be addressed. Our guidelines are a wake-up call to Member States and companies to ensure they are fulfilling their duties to protect indispensable, yet vulnerable, workers.”

While the Commission monitors the proper application of Union rules in relation to seasonal workers, the responsibility for their proper application belongs to national authorities. Thus, appropriate actions are needed as a matter of urgency.

The guidelines cover a range of aspects, such as:

  • the right of seasonal workers to work in an EU Member State regardless of whether they are EU nationals or come from countries outside the EU
  • suitable living and working conditions, including physical distancing and appropriate hygiene measures
  • clear communication to workers of their rights
  • undeclared work
  • social security aspects.

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