The Impact of the European Union on Nursing in the UK – a factual guide



ong>Theong> current EU Treaty also contains a social

clause, similar to ong>theong> health protection

provision, to ensure a high level ong>ofong> employment

and social protection are taken into account in

defining and implementing oong>theong>r EU policies.

An increasing proportion ong>ofong> UK employment

law originates in ong>theong> EU and provides important

protections for nursing staff. ong>Theong>se include

EU-wide rules governing information and

consultation on collective redundancies,

safeguarding employment rights in ong>theong> event

ong>ofong> transfers ong>ofong> undertakings under ong>theong> TUPE

legislation and, through social dialogue

negotiations, agreement on equal rights for

part-time workers and those on fixed-term

contracts in access to training and annual

leave, for example.

ong>Theong> EU’s key health and safety-related

directives also provide a legal framework

for employers to reduce ong>theong> risks ong>ofong>

musculoskeletal disorders, biological hazards,

stress and violence to health care staff. ong>Theong>

implementation ong>ofong> ong>theong> EU’s manual handling

directive heralded ong>theong> introduction ong>ofong> hoists

and oong>theong>r lifting equipment in health care

settings and has significantly reduced ong>theong>

risks for nurses and patients. ong>Theong> ong>Europeanong>

Working Time Directive also emanates from ong>theong>

EU’s competence to address health and safety

at work and reduce fatigue within ong>theong> nursing

workforce as a result ong>ofong> long working hours,

a lack ong>ofong> rest breaks and poorly managed

shift rotas. ong>Theong> RCN supported its adoption

in ong>theong> 1990s and subsequent attempts at

updating. As part ong>ofong> ong>theong> social dialogue, ong>theong>

RCN, togeong>theong>r with oong>theong>r health unions, was

also instrumental in gaining agreement on a

framework for preventing sharps injuries to

health care workers, adopted in 2010.

On equalities issues, ong>theong> right to equal pay

for equal work between men and women was

enshrined in ong>theong> original Treaty ong>ofong> Rome (1957)

as part ong>ofong> ong>theong> social and employment provisions

ong>ofong> ong>theong> new Economic Community. In 1999 this

was extended to “equal pay for work ong>ofong> equal

value” and a new competence was introduced

for EU action, with ong>theong> agreement ong>ofong> all member

states, to combat discrimination not just on ong>theong>

grounds ong>ofong> sex, but also race or ethnic origin,

religion, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Equal pay and equal treatment legislation

agreed at ong>Europeanong> level and implemented

in ong>theong> UK has influenced pay and terms

and conditions in ong>theong> NHS, so that roles

predominantly carried out by women are not

discriminated against. Equal pay requirements

were a driving factor behind ong>theong> development

ong>ofong> ong>theong> Agenda for Change pay terms and

conditions agreement for NHS staff, which

ensures equal pay for work ong>ofong> equal value for

nurses and health care assistants working for

ong>theong> NHS.

Equal pay legislation has also been very

important in outlawing discrimination in

occupational pension schemes in ong>theong> UK,

including ong>theong> NHS pension scheme, ensuring

equal access to ong>theong> scheme for part-time

nursing staff.

Free movement ong>ofong> people health

prong>ofong>essionals and patients

Facilitating ong>theong> free movement ong>ofong> workers

was one ong>ofong> ong>theong> cornerstones ong>ofong> ong>theong> original

Treaty ong>ofong> Rome establishing ong>theong> ong>Europeanong>

Economic Community. Initiatives included

ong>theong> introduction ong>ofong> legislation for ong>theong>

mutual recognition ong>ofong> health prong>ofong>essionals’

qualifications in Europe, based on minimum

standards ong>ofong> education across ong>theong> EU. For

nursing, this defines minimum hours ong>ofong>

education, ong>theong> ong>theong>ory/practice split and a set

ong>ofong> subjects to be covered. ong>Theong> overarching

legislation now covers over 800 prong>ofong>essions

and was founded on ong>theong> EU’s internal market

competences raong>theong>r than its public health

remit, which created some tensions in relation

to ong>theong> balance between free movement

objectives and public protection.

ong>Theong> ong>Impactong> ong>ofong> ong>theong> ong>Europeanong> ong>Unionong> on Nursing in ong>theong> UK a factual guide 5

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