In the case of C-569 570/16 Bauer Brossonn Judgments of the Grand Chamber, horizontal direct effect, vertical direct effect of EU legislation on state and private employers were explored

Facts of the Case

Horizontal direct effect, individual rights individuals conferred relied upon to make claims against other individuals before national court, was concerned here as the EU court had to work out whether such was applicable regarding the EU Carter of Fundamental Rights.

  • Two widows, Mrs Bauer and MRs Brossonn, wanted to claim allowance in accordance with the paid annual leave of their husbands which had remained unclaimed due to their deaths; the former employers refused
  • Bauer’s deceased husband worked for the state, and Brossonn’s worked for a private company
  • Germany’s laws had barred such claims from widow and widowers, and therefore the claimants sought to have it resolved at EU court


  • Were the widows entitled to the to an allowance in lieu of the annual leave their spouses had not taken before their deaths?
  • As the employment relationship had terminated, would the allowance in lieu of annual be paid, as per Article 7(2) of the Working Time Directive 2003/88? This would mean the German legislation such matter was incorrect

Held by the European Court of Justice

As these were joined cases:

  • In Mrs Bauer’s case, she had a claim against the state employer through vertical direct effect;
  • Mrs Brossonn could rely upon horizontal direct effect from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights against her deceased husband’s private employer

Findings of the Court

  • “The right to a period of paid annual leave, affirmed for every worker by Article 31(2) of the Charter, is thus, as regards its very existence, both mandatory and unconditional in nature, the unconditional nature not needing to be given concrete expression by the provisions of EU or national law, which are only required to specify the exact duration of annual leave and, where appropriate, certain conditions for the exercise of that right. It follows that that provision is sufficient in itself to confer on workers a right that they may actually rely on in disputes between them and their employer in a field covered by EU law and therefore falling within the scope of the Charter” [85]

The court found that where the national law does not succeed to follow the Charter, they are to disregard it

  • “Article 31(2) of the Charter therefore entails, in particular, as regards the situations falling within the scope thereof, first, that the national court must disapply national legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings pursuant to which the death of a worker retroactively deprives him of his entitlement to paid annual leave acquired before his death, and, accordingly, his legal heirs of the entitlement to the allowance in lieu” [86]
  • “It should be recalled that the right to paid annual leave constitutes an essential principle of EU social law” [80]

Editorial Comment

The national legislation laid down by the Member State Germany was precluded by EU law. This case shows that where a private employer is involved, there is a strong case for one’s worker rights using the Charter, which would not otherwise be covered by the Directive whereby a state employer can be claimed against. Worker rights are protected in both state employer and private employer law.