Office for the Equal Treatment of EU Workers

Equal treatment of EU-Workers

1. What is freedom of movement for workers?

Freedom of movement for workers is one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms.
It allows the citizens of the 28 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, to work in any of these countries without requiring a work permit.

The family members of these countries’ citizens are also entitled to freedom of movement for workers, even if they themselves come from a third country.

Free movement of workers entitles you to:

  • look for a job in another country,
  • work there without needing a work permit,
  • live there for that purpose,
  • stay there even after your employment has finished,
  • enjoy equal treatment with nationals of the host country in terms of access to employment, initial and continuing training, trade unions, housing and all other social and tax advantages, as well as in terms of working conditions.

2. Equal treatment

EU citizens who work in another EU country (the host country) have a right to be treated like nationals of the host country, as do their family members.

For jobseekers, this means in concrete terms:

  • You are entitled to the same support from the public employment services as nationals of the host country.
  • However, restrictions apply with regard to cost-of-living benefits.

Please note: When you apply for a job, the employer is not allowed to treat you less favourably than other candidates because your residence is in another Member State.

Please note: In principle, employers are allowed to require candidates from other EU Member States to have German language skills. However, the level of language skills required must be appropriate and necessary for the job in question. In particular, German language skills may not be used as a pretext to discriminate against EU citizens in the job application process or to exclude them from the application process. In certain cases and for certain jobs, requiring a very high level of language skills can be justified. However, requiring applicants to be “native speakers” is not permitted.

Workers are entitled to the following from the first day of work:

Likewise, in the workplace you must be treated in the same way as your colleagues who are nationals of the host country. This applies in particular to:

Living or working in another EU country should not result in you suffering any disadvantages – including in terms of social security. That is why there are European rules which protect your social security entitlements. These rules apply in the 28 EU countries, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The rules are based on four principles:

  • At all times, you are subject to the social security system of a single country. This means that you only pay social security contributions in that country.
  • You have the same rights and responsibilities as nationals of that country.
  • Periods of insurance, employment and residence in other countries are taken into account when determining your social security entitlements.
  • If you are entitled to cash benefits in one country, you receive them even if you are not living in that country.

You can enforce these rights in court.

FAQ Equal Treatment of EU Workers

Employment in the public administration (public service) is, in principle, also open to EU citizens and to non-EU nationals. In addition, as an EU citizen you can also become a civil servant in Germany (Beamtin or Beamter). This is explicitly regulated in Section 7 of the Act on Federal Civil Servants (Bundesbeamtengesetz). European law allows access to the core area of sovereign functions of the public administration to be restricted to a country’s own nationals (one extreme example: the office of the German President). However, the vast majority of positions in the public service in Germany are not subject to this restriction.

The same legal situation applies to your family members. The family members of EU citizens also have equal access to the labour market (Article 23 of Directive 2004/38/EC). This access includes employment in the public service as employees and as civil servants.

Tip: If you are interested in a job in the public administration, don’t hesitate to apply. Increasing the proportion of people with a migration background working in the federal public service is a stated aim of the Federal Government.

EU citizens who are subject to German social security legislation have the same rights and responsibilities as Germans. They may not be treated less favourably because of their nationality. When it comes to benefits which require the individual to have completed a certain period of insurance coverage to qualify for entitlement, as is the case for German statutory pension insurance, EU citizens are also required to meet these conditions. If they have not been insured in Germany long enough to be entitled to benefits here, their periods of insurance coverage in other EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland are also taken into account. This ensures that EU citizens do not lose their coverage or insurance periods if they decide to work in another of these countries.

While looking for a job, you are entitled to the same support from the public employment services as nationals of the host country. However, restrictions apply with regard to cost-of-living benefits.

Starting from your first day of work, you have the same entitlement to:

Likewise, in the workplace, you must be treated in the same way as your colleagues who are nationals of the host country. This applies in particular to:

  • Pay, dismissal, and other conditions of employment and work,
  • Health and safety in the workplace,
  • The right to be a member of a trade union, to elect its executive or to be elected to a position in a trade union.

If you are working in another EU country, you and your family must be treated in the same way as your colleagues who are nationals of that country. The principle of equal treatment not only prohibits open discrimination; it also bans all rules which discriminate against you indirectly. One example of this is if applicants for a job have to meet requirements which are typically more difficult for foreign nationals to meet than Germans, in cases where these requirements are not actually necessary for the job in question. You can enforce your right to equal treatment in court.

Freedom of movement for workers is one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms.
It allows the citizens of the 28 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, to work in any of these countries without requiring a work permit.

The family members of these countries’ citizens are also entitled to freedom of movement for workers, even if they themselves come from a third country.

Free movement of workers entitles you to:

  • look for a job in another country,
  • work there without needing a work permit,
  • live there for that purpose,
  • stay there even after your employment has finished,
  • enjoy equal treatment with nationals of the host country in terms of access to employment, initial and continuing training, trade unions, housing and all other social and tax advantages, as well as in terms of working conditions.

In this context, a worker is defined as being someone who

  • performs services
  • for another person
  • under that person’s direction
  • for a specific period of time
  • and is paid for doing so.

Whether these criteria are met is determined on a case-by-case basis. There are no minimum requirements regarding the number of hours to be worked or the level of earnings. People who work part-time and low earners can still be classified as workers.

Self-employed persons are not classified as workers and are therefore not covered by freedom of movement for workers. Their right to work in Germany is based on either the freedom to provide services, if their registered office is in another country, or the freedom of establishment, if their registered office is in Germany.

Students are not workers. However, they can be regarded as workers if they are employed during their studies.