European Social Charter

The European Social Charter

A few facts on the European Social Charter
Rights guaranteed by the ESC
The European Committee of Social Rights
Reporting Procedure
Collective Complaint Procedure
The impact of implementing the Charter in member States

A treaty is a solemn international agreement that states promise to honour when they ratify it.

The Council of Europe is a political organisation, founded in 1949, to defend the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Membership is open to all European states which undertake to abide by the Organisation’s principles. At present the Council of Europe has 47 member states.

Human rights are inalienable rights which guarantee the fundamental dignity of the human being.

The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees civil and political human rights.

The European Social Charter, its natural complement, guarantees social and economic human rights. It was adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996.

The European Social Charter (referred to below as “the Charter”) sets out rights and freedoms and establishes a supervisory mechanism guaranteeing their respect by the States Parties.

Following its revision, the 1996 revised European Social Charter, which came into force in 1999, is gradually replacing the initial 1961 treaty. blue
Rights guaranteed by the Charter
The rights guaranteed by the Charter concern all individuals in their daily lives
Legal and social protection
Free movement of persons

access to adequate and affordable housing  ;

reduction of homelessness ; housing policy targeted
at all disadvantaged categories

procedures to limit forced eviction ;

equal access for non-nationals to social housing
and housing benefits ;

housing construction and housing benefits related
to family needs.


accessible, effective health care facilities for the
entire population;

policy for preventing illness with, in particular,
the guarantee of a healthy environment;

elimination of occupational hazards so as to ensure
that health and safety at work are provided for by law
and guaranteed in practice;

protection of maternity;


free primary and secondary education;

free and effective vocational guidance services;

access to initial training (general and vocational
secondary education), university and non-university
higher education, vocational training, including
further training;

special measures for foreign residents;

integration of children with disabilities into
mainstream schooling;

access to education and vocational training
for persons with disabilities.


prohibition of forced labour;

prohibition of the employment of children under
the age of 15;

special working conditions between 15 and 18 years of age;

the right to earn one’s living in an occupation freely entered upon;

an economic and social policy designed to ensure full employment;

fair working conditions as regards pay and working hours;

protection from sexual and psychological harassment;

freedom to form trade unions and employers’ organisations
to defend economic and social interests; individual freedom to decide
whether or not to join them;

promotion of joint consultation, collective bargaining, conciliation
and voluntary arbitration;

protection in case of dismissal;

the right to strike;

access to work for persons with disabilities.

Legal and social protection

legal status of the child ;

treatment of young offenders;

protection from ill-treatment and abuse ;

prohibition of any form of exploitation (sexual or other) ;

legal protection of the family (equality of spouses
within the couple and towards children, protection of children
in case the family breaks up);

the right to social security, social welfare and social services;

the right to be protected against poverty and social exclusion;

special measures catering for the elderly.

Movement of persons

the right to family reunion;

the right of nationals to leave the country;

procedural safeguards in the event of expulsion;

simplification of immigration formalities..


the right of women and men to equal treatment and equal
opportunities in employment;

a guarantee to all nationals and foreigners legally resident
and/or working that all the rights set out in the Charter apply
regardless of race, sex, age, colour, language, religion, opinions,
national origin, social background, state of health or association
with a national minority.

prohibition of discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities ;

right of persons with disabilities to social integration and
participation in the life of the community.


The European Committee of Social Rights

The European Committee of Social Rights (referred to below as “the Committee”) ascertains whether countries have honoured the undertakings set out in the Charter.

Its fifteen independent, impartial members are elected by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers for a period of six years, renewable once.

The Committee determines whether or not national law and practice in the States Parties are in conformity with the Charter (Article 24 of the Charter, as amended by the 1991 Turin Protocol). blue

A monitoring procedure based on national reports

Every year the States Parties submit a report indicating how they implement the Charter in law and in practice. Each report concerns some of the accepted provisions of the Charter.

The Committee examines the reports and decides whether or not the situations in the countries concerned are in conformity with the Charter. Its decisions, known as “conclusions”, are published every year.

If a state takes no action on a Committee decision to the effect that it does not comply with the Charter, the Committee of Ministers addresses a recommendation to that state, asking it to change the situation in law and/or in practice.

The Committee of Ministers’ work is prepared by a Governmental Committee comprising representatives of the governments of the States Parties to the Charter, assisted by observers representing European employers’ organisations and trade

A collective complaints procedure

Under a protocol opened for signature in 1995, which came into force in 1998, complaints of violations of the Charter may be lodged with the European Committee of Social Rights.

Organisations entitled to lodge complaints with the Committee

– In the case of all states that have accepted the procedure: :

  1. European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), BusinessEurope (formerly UNICE) and International Organisation of Employers (IOE).
  2. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with participative status with the Council of Europe which are on a list drawn up for this purpose by the Governmental Committee;
  3. Employers’ organisations and trade unions in the country concerned;

– In the case of states which have also agreed to this:

  1.  National NGOs.

The complaint file must contain the following information:

  1. the name and contact details of the organisation submitting the complaint;
  2. proof that the person submitting and signing the complaint is entitled to represent the organisation lodging the complaint;
  3. the state against which the complaint is directed;
  4. an indication of the provisions of the Charter that have allegedly been violated;
  5. the subject matter of the complaint, i.e. the point(s) in respect of which the state in question has allegedly failed to comply with the Charter, along with the relevant arguments, with supporting documents.

The complaint must be drafted in English or French in the case of organisations in categories 1 and 2 above. In the case of the others (categories 3 and 4), it may be drafted in the official language, or one of the official languages, of the state concerned.

The Committee examines the complaint and, if the formal requirements have been met, declares it admissible.

Once the complaint has been declared admissible, a written procedure is set in motion, with an exchange of memorials between the parties. The Committee may decide to hold a public hearing.

The Committee then takes a decision on the merits of the complaint, which it forwards to the parties concerned and the Committee of Ministers in a report, which is made public within four months of its being forwarded.

Finally, the Committee of Ministers adopts a resolution. If appropriate, it may recommend that the state concerned take specific measures to bring the situation into line with the Charter. blue

The impact of the Charter in member States

As a result of the monitoring system, states make changes to their legislation and/or practice in order to bring the situation into line with the