European Union Law: Free Movement of Workers

EU solidarity

The broad concept of EU solidarity is said to be the underlying aspiration of the integration of the people of Europe and is guaranteed by the following freedoms:

Central to the European Union is the concept of unification of nations with the emphasis representing recognition of the autonomy of individual states.

Free Movement of Workers

Article 39 of the EC Treaty lays down the universal recognition of the free movement of workers within the European Union.

What is guaranteed by Article 39?

Article 39 guarantees the following rights:

  • The right to look for a job in another Member State
  • The right to work in another Member State
  • The right to reside there for that purpose
  • The right to remain there
  • The right to equal treatment in respect of access to employment, working conditions and all other advantages provided to the workers in that Member State

What is meant by a worker?

The European Court of Justice has defined a worker for the purposes of Article 39 as the following:

“any person who pursues activities which are effective and genuine, to the exclusion of activities on such a small scale as to be regarded as purely marginal and ancillary, will be treated as a worker.”

This wide definition is important when considering the following activities:

  • The armed forces and public servants
  • Family members of workers
  • Claims for pensions and social security rights

Application to Sportsmen

The application of Article 39 has become apparent in relation to sport especially when dealing with footballers. The most famous case was the Bosman case which stated that footballers were considered workers under Article 39 and should be given the same rights as other workers and therefore when out of contract they are free to move to any other Member State to play for a club in that Member State without the requirement of a transfer fee being paid to their previous club.

Ten years later in 2005 the European Court of Justice further qualified this ruling by ruling on a case concerning a Russian player plying his trade in Spain.

Unlock this article now!


For more information on:

  • What is required for a person to move from Member State to Member State?
  • Right to Equal Treatment
  • Job Vacancy
  • Previous Employment – Aggregation
  • Social Security Benefits
  • Retirement Pension
  • Accidents at Work
  • What is the case concerning Enlargement of the European Union?