What Is a Works Council in the Netherlands?

What Is a Works Council?

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

A business entity is obligated by the Act to establish a council, depending on the number of employees that work within the company based on an employment agreement.

A Works Council is not the same as a Trade Union. These unions are (independent) organisations, representing employees within a certain industry or business sector. The Trade Unions are negotiating Collective Labour Agreements of employment. This is an exclusive role – the council will on average not have a say in this.

These 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 and Responsibilities?

The purpose is to benefit both the employer and employees, through the representation in the workplace and a having a forum in which constructive feedback can allow the business to progress. Their rights and responsibilities is solely intended to protect employees in the working environment.

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 a Works Council can 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?

  • Based upon the Act, the Works Council is mandatory to be established.

In case your company owns more than 1 company, please ensure that each company with 50 employees and more has its own Works Council. A joint Works 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 Works Council 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 is described in article 6 of the Works Councils Act.

More information