Council of Europe - European Social Charter
updated July 26, 2013
The European Social Charter (ETS No. 35) was adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996, with the revised version coming into force in 1999. The Social Charter guarantees 31 basic economic and social rights. The Charter is divided into six parts. Part I of the Charter lists 31 “rights and principles” generally concerning housing, health, education, employment, legal and social protection, movement of persons, disabilities and non-discrimination.[1] Part II elaborates on the obligations State parties undertake to ensure the protection of each of the rights and principles enumerated in Part I.[2] Part III outlines the rules for undertaking the Charter. Each State party agrees to consider Part 1 of the Charter as a declaration of the aims “which it will pursue by all appropriate means.” Furthermore, a party must be bound by at least six of nine essential articles under Part II. A State Party must also bind itself to an additional number of articles under Part II which it may select; however, it must be bound by a total of at least sixteen articles or at least 63 numbered paragraphs.[3]
Significantly, for advocates for women's rights, a majority of the additions in the revised version directly and positively impact women. The new rights contained in the revised Charter are as follows: the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion; the right to housing; the right to protection in cases of termination of employment; the right to protection against sexual harassment in the workplace and other forms of harassment; the rights of workers with family responsibilities to equal opportunities and equal treatment; and the right of workers to be consulted about work-related changes. The amendments to the 1961 Charter include reinforcing the "principle of non-discrimination; improvement of gender equality in all fields covered by the treaty; [and] better protection of maternity and social protection of mothers."[4]
Every year, State parties are obligated to submit a national report to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe concerning their implementation of the Charter.Once the appropriate bodies have reviewed the reports, the Committee of Ministers may issue recommendations to the governments of the State parties concerned. In 1998, the enforcement of the Charter was significantly expanded by the entry into force of an Additional Protocol Providing for a System of Collective Complaints (ETS No. 158).[5] The Additional Protocol allows non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with consultative status to submit complaints to the Secretary General alleging noncompliance with the provisions of the Charter. In the case of a State party violation of the Charter, the Committee of Ministers adopts a recommendation describing the measures the State should undertake to remedy the situation. The collective complaint mechanism is described in more detail in the European enforcement mechanisms section of this site.

[1] Council of Europe, The Social Charter at a Glance, July 2012,
[2] The European Social Charter, Council of Europe, 3 May 1996,
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter Providing for a System of Collective Complaints, Council of Europe, Nov. 9, 1995,