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Betriebsverfassungsgesetz (German Works Council Constitution Act)

In Germany, the Works Council Constitution Act governs the relationship between the employer and its employees.

This act grants employees some "co-determination" rights in matters concerning the welfare of employees and other staff-related matters as well as economic issues.


The works council – constituted at the employees’ request

In private-sector companies in Germany that employ at least five employees over the age of 18, and of whom three have worked there for longer than six months, these employees may elect a works committee.

  • The law does not mandate the establishment of a works council.
  • The company’s employees may decide to elect a works council at their discretion.
  • The works council and the employer must collaborate in good faith.


Composition of the works council

  • The works council does not represent executive officers of the company.
  • The size of the works council depends on the number of people employed by the company. This also applies to agency workers.
 
Employees entitled to vote Number of members of the works council
5 - 20 1
21 - 50 3
51 - 100 5
101 - 200 7
201 - 400 9
401 - 700 11
701 - 1.000 13
1.001 - 1.500 15
1.501 - 2.000 17
2.001 - 2.500 19
2.501 - 3.000 21
3.001 - 3.500 23
3.501 - 4.000 25
4.001 - 4.500 27
4.501 - 5.000 29
5.001 - 6.000 31
6.001 - 7.000 33
7.001 - 9.000 35
> 9000
+ 2 for each additional
3,000 employees


In companies with more than 100 employees an economic committee must be formed as part of the works committee, which is responsible for determining and advising on economic issues.

Subject to certain conditions being met, officials of those trade unions may attend works council meetings whose members are employed by the company.


Tasks and duties of the works council

Among other matters, the works council is to ensure compliance with the laws, ordinances and accident prevention regulations by the employees, as well as with collective wage agreements and operating agreements by the employer.

The works council is involved in issues concerning the company’s:

  • Rules of operation;
  • Working hours;
  • Wage structure;
  • Workplace layout;
  • Projected staffing requirements;
  • Vocational training;
  • Questions related to occupational safety.

In companies employing more than twenty members of staff with voting rights, the works council must approve:

  • New appointments;
  • Allocations and re-allocations of staff members to wage groups;
  • Employee transfers.

In the event of terminations, the works council is to be consulted and may lodge an objection; the termination may be upheld in spite of the works council’s objection.


Rights of participation

  • Involvement rights
    If the works council solely has the right to be involved, the employer must inform the works council, hear the council and discuss certain matters with it.
  • "Co-determination" rights
    If the works council enjoys "co-determination" rights, the employer may only act with the council’s approval. If the council refuses such approval, the Einigungsstelle (conciliation committee) or the Labor Court will decide.

(Sources: Handbook on Betriebsverfassung (Works Council Constitution); Handbook on Employment Law published by the Federal Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs)

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