FAQ : The 9 most frequently asked questions about the European Social Charter

1. What is the European Social Charter?
2. What are the rights guaranteed by the Charter?
3. Who monitors compliance with the Charter?
4. What is the role of the European Committee of Social Rights ?
5. How does monitoring work?
6. When do States submit their periodic national reports?
7. Who is entitled to lodge complaints with the European Committee of Social Rights ?
8. Which States have signed and ratified the Charter?
9. Which provisions have States decided to accept to be bound by?
 1.  What is the European Social Charter?              
The European Social Charter is a treaty  of the Council of Europe which sets out human rights for everyday life and requires their respect by the States which have accepted it.

The contents of the Charter was enriched and the 1996 Revised European Social Charter is gradually replacing the initial 1961 treaty.
 2. What are the rights guaranteed by the Charter?
The Charter guarantees fundamental freedoms and rights which concern all individuals in their daily existence. 

The basic rights set out in the Charter are as follows:

(click on each heading for details)

Housing
Health
Education
Employment
Legal and social protection
Movement of persons
Non discrimination

For a more comprehensive presentation of the Charter click here to download “The Social Charter at a glance”.

 3. Who is responsible for assessing if States are in conformity with the provisions of the Charter? blue
The European Committee of Social Rights (referred to below as "the Committee") rules on the conformity of national law and practice with the Charter.

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

More information on the ECSR
 4. What is the role of the European Committee of Social Rights ? blue
The Committee examines the situation in the countries concerned and decides whether or ot the situations are inconformity with the Charter.

It adopts conclusions in the framework of the reporting procedure and decisions under the collective complaint procedure.
   
 5. How does monitoring work? blue
- The reporting procedure

States Parties regularly submit a report indicating how they implement the provisions of the Charter.  Each report concerns some of the accepted provisions of the Charter.  These provisions are divided into the following four thematic groups:

- Group I: Employment, training and equal opportunities
- Group II: Health, social security and social protection
- Group III: Labour rights
- Group IV: Children, families, migrants.

The Committee examines the situation in the country concerned and decides whether or not the situations are in conformity with the Charter.  Its "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 may address a recommendation to that State, asking it to change the situation in law 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 unions.

- The collective complaints procedure

Under an Additional Protocol to the Charter, which came into force in 1998, national trade unions and employers' organisations as well as certain European trade unions and employers' organisations (European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), BUSINESSEUROPE (formerly UNICE) and International Organisation of Employers (IOE)), and certain international NGOs are entitled to lodge complaints of violations of the Charter with the Committee. In addition, national NGOs may lodge complaints if the State concerned makes a declaration to this effect.

The Committee examines the complaint and when and if the complaint has been declared admissible, a written procedure commences with an exchange of submissions between the parties. The Committee may decide to hold a public hearing in the course of examining the complaint.

The Committee may decide to hold a public hearing in the course of examining the complaint.  The Committee finally takes a decision on the merits of the complaint, which it forwards to the parties to the complaint and the Committee of Ministers in a report, which is made public within four months.

When the Committee finds a violation of the Charter, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers invites the respondent State to indicate the measures taken to bring the situation into conformity. It adopts a resolution. And, if appropriate, may recommend the State concerned to take specific measures to bring the situation into line with the Charter.
 6.  When do States submit their periodic national reports? blue
Every year the States parties submit a report indicating how they implement the Charter in law and in practice.

Following a decision taken by the Committee of Ministers which became effective on 31 October 2007,  States are to present a report on a part of the provisions annually and each provision of the Charter is reported on once every four years.


Calendar of reporting system
 7. Who is entitled to lodge complaints with the ECSR? blue
Under the Collective Complaints Protocol, the organisations entitled to lodge complaints are as follows:

– 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) enjoying particpatory 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:

4. National NGOs.
 8. Which States have signed and ratified the Charter? blue
A total of 43 States have ratified the Charter (either the 1961 Charter or revised version) and are listed as follows:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, «the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia», Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have signed and ratified the Social Charter.

The following 4 states have signed but not yet ratified the Charter:  Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland.

Table of signatures and ratifications
Overview of signatures and ratifications

9. Which provisions have States decided to accept to be bound by? blue
State parties have to accept at least 6 of the 9 articles of the “hard core” provisions of the Charter (Articles 1 (right to work), 5 (freedom of association), 6 (collective bargaining), 7 (right of children and young persons to protection), 12 (right to social security), 13 (right to social and medical assistance), 16 (right of the family to social, legal and economic protection), 19 (right of migrant workers and their families to protection) and 20 (right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation without discrimination on the grounds of sex) and select an additional number of articles or numbered paragraphs to be bound by.

The total number of articles or numbered paragraphs by which every state is bound is not less than 16 articles or 63 numbered paragraphs.

Table of accepted provisions