The founding documents of the European Union (EU) establish a broad range of tasks in the field of social policy: achieving a high level of employment and social welfare, equality of women and men, raising the living standard and quality of life, and achieving economic and social cohesion and solidarity among member states.
Competences in the field of social welfare have been divided between the EU and member states. The EU, based on Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), supports and complements the activities of member states in the field of social policy. The EU acquis in the field of social affairs covers minimum standards in the field of labour law, healthcare, occupational safety, equal treatment of men and women regarding employment and social security, employment policies and social dialogue. Furthermore, there are separate mandatory rules for all EU member states regarding the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of: racial and ethnic affiliation, religion and faith, disability, age and sexual orientation (Article 19 of the TFEU).
The protection of human rights has been formally introduced as an EU obligation through the preamble of the Single European Act from 1986 and the Treaty on the EU from 1993. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights from 2000 proclaims the inviolable nature of human dignity and unifies general human and civil rights, as well as economic and social rights.