Free movement of workers

Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 on the right of EU workers to move within the EU

It updates (and codifies) earlier legislation on the ability of European Union citizens to move freely and to work in another EU country.
It also seeks to ensure that the principle of free movement enshrined in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is respected in practice.

Key Points

The free movement of labour benefits the individuals who choose to work elsewhere in the EU as well as the societies which receive them. It enables the former to exercise their right to free movement and to improve their personal and professional situation, and the latter to fill job vacancies and skills shortages.

Just as someone living in one EU country has the right to take up gainful employment in another, so can employers advertise job vacancies and agree contracts with potential employees from throughout the EU.

The legislation codifies and replaces Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68, which was substantially amended several times. It ensures the system operates smoothly by outlawing any form of nationality discrimination between EU workers.

In particular, it bans:
separate recruitment procedures for foreign nationals; and
limits on advertising vacancies or the imposition of specific conditions such as registering with employment offices for people coming from another EU country.
Similarly, it is illegal to discriminate between national and other EU workers on employment and work terms, covering:
access to employment, including the jobseekers’ assistance by employment offices;
working conditions, including pay, dismissal, reinstatement or re-employment;
access to training, including in vocational schools and retraining centres.

The same principle of access to educational, apprenticeship and vocational training schemes applies to the children of someone who is or has been working in another EU country.
The legislation covers certain social rights. A worker working in another EU country is entitled to the same social and tax advantages as nationals of the host EU country. He also has the right to housing benefits in the same conditions as nationals and may register on a housing list, where these exist, in the area where they are working.

The legislation also covers equality of treatment as regards membership of trade unions and the exercise of related rights, such as the right to vote and to be eligible for administrative or management posts in a trade union.

A certain level of language knowledge may be required for a job, but any language requirement must be reasonable and necessary for the job in question.
The legislation sets up an Advisory Committee comprising 6 members from each EU country: 2 representing the government, 2 the trade unions and 2 the employers’ associations. This committee assists the European Commission in matters concerning free movement of workers. The European Labour Authority, established by Regulation (EU) 2019/1149 participates in the committee’s meetings as an observer, providing technical input and expertise.

One exception

The one exception to the non-discrimination principle concerns access to posts involving the exercise of public authority and duties designed to safeguard the general interests of the state. EU countries may reserve such posts for their own nationals.

EURES regulation

In 2016, Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 was amended by Regulation (EU) 2016/589 on the European Employment Services (EURES). As a result, the rules on the exchange of information on job vacancies, job applications and CVs across EU countries now fall within the scope of the new regulation.


Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union (codification) (OJ L 141, 27.5.2011, pp. 1-12)

It has applied since 16 June 2011. Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 codified and replaced Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and its subsequent amendments.

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Regulation (EU) 2019/1149 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 establishing a European Labour Authority, amending Regulations (EC) No 883/2004, (EU) No 492/2011, and (EU) 2016/589 and repealing Decision (EU) 2016/344 (OJ L 186, 11.7.2019, pp. 21-56)

Special Report No 6/2018 — ‘Free Movement of Workers — the fundamental freedom ensured but better targeting of EU funds would aid worker mobility’ (OJ C 79, 2.3.2018, p. 17)

Directive 2014/54/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on measures facilitating the exercise of rights conferred on workers in the context of freedom of movement for workers (OJ L 128, 30.4.2014, pp. 8-14)

Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Three: Union policies and internal actions — Title IV: Free movement of persons, services and capital — Chapter 1: Workers — Article 45 (ex Article 39 TEC) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 65


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