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Social protection benefits in Europe may soon cover the self-employed

European Union
The European Council has adopted a proposed Recommendation on providing access to social protection for all categories of workers and the self-employed.

On 15 October 2019, the Council of the European Union adopted a proposed Recommendation on improving access to social protection for the self-employed and for workers who are not in standard full-time employment.

The proposals are part of the European Commission’s ‘Access to Social Protection’ initiative. In April 2019, the Commission reported that the evolution in the structure of the labour market has meant that social security systems tailored to individuals in full-time employment are no longer fit for purpose in some member states, leaving those in casual or seasonal employment, the self-employed and workers on agency contracts, for example, potentially lacking sufficient social protection. The types of benefits to which these workers may not have access include unemployment, sickness and healthcare, maternity and paternity, invalidity and old-age benefits.

The Council proposed Recommendation includes the points set out below.

Member States are recommended to close the coverage gap between full-time employees and other workers and the self-employed by allowing all workers and self-employed individuals to access social protection schemes.

Member States should establish minimum standards for social protection, ensuring all workers and the self-employed are entitled to formal and effective

coverage that is both adequate and transparent.

The Recommendation applies to benefits covering the following situations:

  • unemployment;
  • sickness and healthcare;
  • maternity and paternity;
  • invalidity;
  • old-age and survivors’;
  • accidents at work and occupational diseases.


Rules on contributions should not prevent individuals from accruing or accessing benefits because of their type of employment relationship or labour market status.

Member States should ensure that entitlements to social protection are preserved and transferable across all types of employment or self-employment status throughout an individual’s career.

Information and rules for social protection schemes should be accessible, user-friendly and clearly understandable.

Next steps

The proposed timetable for implementation in the Recommendation states that member states should implement its principles ‘as soon as possible’, submitting a plan for measures to be taken 18 months after publication of the Recommendation. A Recommendation is not binding on member states, but provides a policy framework.