The EU Brussels and Rome Regulations

Two principal bodies of EU law govern mobile workers or employers operating across country borders. Although simple in essence, they are hard to apply. They also make it difficult for employers to swing them to their advantage.

BRUSSELS RULES (Section 5 of Regulation 1215/2012)

The New Brussels Rules govern where an employer may be sued, and the New Rome Rules give choice under which country laws a contract may be concluded.

The New Brussels Rules concern Jurisdiction and recognition and enforcement of civil judgements in the EU.

  • These rules relate specifically to employment
  • Contract disputes are normally handled where a company operates (not domiciled)
  • But choice is given to sue an employer in the state where they are domiciled too.
  • The employer may bring cases against employee only where employee domiciled
  • An employer may vary these rules only by agreement which is entered into after the dispute has arisen or where the employee is given free choice.

ROME RULES (Rome 1 Regulation 2008)

These are:

  • Applicable across EU – except Denmark.
  • Not applicable to arbitration agreements.
  • It gives some freedom on the choice of law in contractual obligations.
  • If no law chosen, then the contract shall be governed by the law of the country with which it is most closely connected.
  • In employment contracts the regulation cannot deprive employee of statutory rights in country where rights would exist in the absence of a choice.
  • Where an employee does not work in any one country then the applicable law is in the place of business through which he was engaged is situated;
  • Provisions apply only where they are to the benefit of the employee.

The New Rome Rules mean that although a contract is concluded under one country law the employee can sue twice – once a contractual prosecution for non-compliance with the terms of the contract and secondly to assert statutory rights in the country where they live or work. There is also scope under Article 8 of the New Brussels Rules to contest a case in another state if it involves several parties and not to do so would give rise to the possibility of an unequal result (a quasi-class action) or as a third party. Another problem with the New Brussels Rules is the term “domiciled”. This has a complex legal meaning which is not always hard and fast.

For further information about handling international legal rights and the mobile workforce please contact the Federation of International Employers (FedEE®) on