What Is A Works Council Under Dutch Law?

In the Netherlands the Works Council [ondernemingsraad, OR] is an internal body representing employees, promoting and protecting the interest of the employees.

The Purpose of the Works Council

The purpose of the Works Council is to benefit both the employer and employees, through employee representation in the workplace and a having a forum in which constructive feedback can allow the business to progress. The council has consultation rights in respect of certain significant proposed management decisions. Furthermore, they have approval rights in respects of intended company decisions regarding employment policies. The rules concerning staff representation are described in the Dutch Works Councils Act.

What Is the difference between a Trade Union and Works Council?

The differences between a Works Council and a trade union are as follows: The trade unions are (independent) organisations, exclusively representing members within a certain industry or business sector. The Works council represent all employees in the company. The Trade Unions are negotiating Collective Labour Agreements of employment, and the Works Council will on average not have a say in this.
The unions have information and consultation rights in respect of collective dismissal. Furthermore, they have right in respect to mergers and considered with are considered to fall within the scope of the Dutch jurisdiction.

What Are the Staff Representation Rights?

The Work Council’s rights and responsibilities in the Netherlands are solely intended to protect employees in the working environment. It holds consultation rights regarding certain significant proposed management decisions. Additionally, it has approval rights concerning intended company decisions regarding employment policies.

Works Council Threshold in the Netherlands

A Works Council is legally required in the Netherlands if the business employs at least 50 workers in accordance with the Dutch Work Councils Act [WOR].

An organisation with multiple legal entities in the Netherlands and each entity is exceeding the 50-employee threshold, will have to establish a council per legal entity.

Organisations with fewer than 50 employees are not required to set up a council. Instead, employees can voluntarily form a council, or opt for a representative body. While this body lacks the legal authority, employees retain the right to consultation through staff meetings.

Does your company employ 1 to 10 employees?

  • Your company may establish a staff meeting on a voluntary basis.

Does your company employ 11 to 49 employees?

  • On the request of the majority of employees, the council can be set in place based on a voluntary decision. At the request of the majority of employees, there is an obligation by the WOR to set up an employee representative body [Personeelsvereniging]. If an employee representative body is established, staff meetings need to take place and are entitled to prior consultation.

Does your company employ 50 employees or more?

In case your company owns more than 1 company, please ensure that each company with 50 employees and more has its own employee representation. A joint council is possible when those companies each employs less than 50 people, but the total amount of employees is 50 or exceeds this number.

How Many Members Are in the Works Council?

The employee representational body may remain in place for 2, 3 or 4 years, as this is described in their Rules of Procedure [OR-reglement]. After the term, new elections will be held. The composition and number of members is described in article 6 of the Works Councils Act.

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