European Union


Our Good Human Rights Story 2020 …

The European Union is committed to promoting human rights and decent work, including safe and healthy working conditions, equality between women and men and to ending discrimination, both internally and in its external relations. That is why the EU played an instrumental role in the negotiations of the ILO Convention No. 190. This is the first international instrument setting out globally applicable standards on tackling work-related harassment and violence and specifying the measures from states and other relevant actors. The adoption of the ILO Convention in June 2019 was a major milestone on the path towards the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. The EU Commission has recently proposed to authorise EU Member States to ratify the ILO Convention No. 190. It is in the interest of European citizens that safe and healthy working conditions are promoted in all working environments, be they public or private, rural or urban. That is why the EU has strong legal safeguards that go hand in hand with the ILO Convention.

Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, live at the Good Human Rights Stories event in Geneva 2020. Watch the full UN TV Webcast here.

Here is an example: Karla is an intern at an international corporate firm in one of the EU capitals. She has just finished the first two semesters of her business studies and wishes to gain valuable working experience for her future career. On a closed social-media chat group, in which most of her co-workers and her supervisor and herself participate, delicate pictures of her recent beach vacation are shared without her consent. Therefore, she suffers from sexualising comments by her colleagues and her supervisor, many of which are openly offensive. Her colleagues, when meeting in the elevator in the mornings, do not talk to her anymore and her work motivation plummets because of their hostility towards her. Karla addresses the issue with her boss who takes immediate action based on the corporate guidelines for a healthy and safe working place that the company has adopted, inspired by the new ILO Convention and Recommendation. The provisions protect her in her current position as a person in training. Even though her direct supervisor claims that the disseminated pictures are of a private nature, Karla knows her rights and the fact that the notion of “world of work” in the Convention also comprises work-related social media communications. Her boss is also aware of national laws that give effect to EU directives[1] requiring the Member States to prohibit discrimination in employment and protect employees by making available redress mechanisms, as well as compensation or reparation. As a victim of harassment, a criminal offense in Karla’s Member State, she is also entitled to protection and support by the national authorities. Her boss advises Karla on the next steps to take, immediately launches the company’s complaint procedure and disciplines the harassers according to its outcome. During the whole process, it is made sure that Karla stays safe and suffers no negative work-related consequences. In the next directors´ meeting, her boss discusses preventive measures so that harassment is not only managed, but also prevented and all employees stay safe. The directors decide to make annual sexual harassment trainings mandatory for all employees and managers so that awareness for this issue is raised and a safe and healthy work place can be assured for all.

Our Good Human Rights Story in 2018 …

Once upon a time… Well, to be honest it was early 2018. Abella and Xander, living in one of the largest cities of a European Union country. They were pretty excited about having their first child. They did not think twice about who would take on the caring roles of their first baby.

Abella took maternity leave when the baby Oliver was born. Due to complications during the pregnancy, Xander had already taken all of his paid holidays and could not be present at Oliver’s birth. Abella’s maternity leave of three months was followed by her seven months of parental leave. These seven months actually included the three months of Xander’s leave which is transferable to Abella. Xander was entitled to one more month of parental leave, but since there is no minimum remuneration for parental leave at that time, the little family simply could not afford Xander taking the remaining non-transferable month of parental leave by himself. Although Abella was missing her financial independence, working part-time also allowed her to drive and support Xander’s elderly mother at her monthly doctor’s appointments.

One year later, Abella was finally offered her former full-time position. Having invested so much effort, she is afraid of losing her laboriously recuperated position by thinking of a second child. Xander is afraid that he will again miss his child’s crawling for the first time and will only see him or her asleep during the week. In April the same year (2019) the European Union passed the Work-Life Balance Directive, which would have a huge impact on their small family.

Fast-forward to 2022, the EU’s Work Life Balance Directive has brought positive changes across Europe. The rights available to fathers and mothers have significantly improved. They decide to give Oliver a little sibling. In December 2022, Abella and Xander are over the moon: Mia is born. Thanks to the EU’s Work-Life Balance directive, all fathers have the right to a minimum of 10 days paid paternity leave. Xander could spend three days before the calculated date of birth with his pregnant wife, and was sure to be there for the birth and have some days off afterwards. In anticipation of his daughter’s birth, he finally could finish the wooden cradle. The birth and the first week after is a wonderful time for both. Abella and Xander share the care for their daughter Mia in the first few days: Abella breastfeeds and Xander realises how well he can take over the role of the diaper-changing father – it’s not that hard when you practice.

Abella stays at home for the first four months and gets back in full time afterwards, also to stay economically independent. Then, Xander takes over. Thanks to EU law, two out of the four months of parental leave allocated to each parent is now non-transferable and must be paid. It’s a story of take it or leave it! Xander decides to take the opportunity to be with his children. Abella can be part of an important project for the company, which is essential for her future career. Since they know they both will be entitled to their old full-time position, they are not worried about their professional future anymore: They agree to reduce their working hours to 50% over the next two years. Thus, they can share the raising of their children even after their parental leave. Thanks to the EU rules, Xander can also take 5 days of carers’ leave to care for his sick mother.

Our Good Human Rights Stories in 2018…

Accountability and Victims Rights

The European Union has implemented a wide package of legal, social and economic measures in support of victims, based on the protection of individual rights across all 28 Member States of the EU.

The European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis engaged in a broad range of stakeholders including with civil society representatives, EU institutions, EU Member States and partner countries to propose the scope to the initiative and identify countries and good practises which could be included in the initial phase of the initiative. For more than 18 months prior to the formal launch, he conducted a programme of successful outreaches and high-level engagement with the partner countries which are members of the initial group of members.

“At a time of challenge for the global human rights architecture, the European Unionhas supported the formation of this alliance”, said EUSR Lambrinidis.  “We are now actively working to identify cross fertilisation of the good practises nationally, regionally and globally, including where the initiative can grow and maximise impact.”

The Good Human Rights Story from the European Union highlights the improvements made for people who are victims of crime and how their lives changed for the better since the EU adopted a law three years ago which better defends their rights. It also features those who assist victims to overcome their trauma, exercise their rights and find the help and treatment they need.

Can you imagine a child having to address a packed courtroom when he or she is too scared to even talk about the crime? Think about those who, because of their past experience, have little trust in the police or in the authorities, and are therefore unable to ask for support? Or think of those very few women who have plucked up the courage to report violence against them? What about the victims of hate crime who do not feel able to report at all the violence they suffer from?

EU law stands by these people and grants them rights which go a long way towards meeting those needs. For example, all EU Member States are now required to ensure that:

  • Information about their rights is made available to victims;
  • National victim support organisations are established and that they should be free and that confidentiality is guaranteed;
  • Victims are able to participate in criminal proceedings and they are supported in this through:
    • interpretation and translation;
    • protection measures to reduce the burden of the proceedings on them and ensure their safety;
    • and the right to compensation;

Not only should victims have access to these rights, but governments should ensure that the police, prosecutors, judges and victim support organisations are properly trained to treat victims in a professional and respectful manner.

Now, three years after the entry into force of this EU law, concrete examples can be showcased of how this legal act has changed peoples’ lives.

Hear a personal story of Raquel about her work as psychologist for the Portuguese association APAV and how providing this type of support can make a difference.

Meet Yasmine, an LGBTI victim of assaults in the Brussels streets.

Hear the story of Robbie who has a learning disability and who was attacked by local residents.

Listen to the the testimony of Eve, working for the Irish child support centre Cari who has set up Europe’s first courthouse dogs’ service for children in criminal proceedings.

While Victims’ stories are not always seen as success stories in themselves, it is clear from the examples we have shown that the strengthening of victims’ rights can play a big part in empowering victims.