In the Netherlands the Works Council [ondernemingraad, OR] is an internal body representing, promoting and protecting the interest of the employees. The rules concerning staff representation are described in the Dutch Works Councils Act, [WOR].
Works Council or Trade Union
A Works Council is not the same as a Trade Union Trade. 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 Works 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.
How many members should the Works Council have?
Works Council members are elected by employees in the Works Council Election. The composition of the Works Council is described in article 6 of the Works Councils Act. There is a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 25 members sitting in the Works Council. The number of members is depending on the number of employees in the company.
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 Works Council elections will be held.
Rights of the Works Council
The purpose of the Works Council 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. The Works Council’s rights and interests are solely intended to protect employees in the working environment.
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.
- Right to be Consulted, article 25 and article 30 WOR: Discuss important decisions regarding the organisation, including the appointment / dismissal of the Director.
- Right of Consent WOR article 27 WOR: Discuss decisions regarding changes in employment related matters.
- Right for Initiative WOR article 23 WOR: Discuss topics during or outside the regular consultation meetings with the entrepreneur.
- Right to be Informed WOR article 31: General active and passive right to be provided with information reasonably necessary for the proper fulfilment of their tasks and duties.
The Works Council encourages:
- Sufficient consultations are taking place with the entrepreneur;
- Rules on working conditions and working hours and rest periods are being observed;
- There is equal treatment and pay for employees.
Business changes can only be implemented after the Works Council process has been followed.
In case of non-compliance, the Works Council may (after the interference of the Branch Committee), request the Cantonal Court to declare the enterprise to comply with its obligations. The Cantonal Court may further oblige the employer or the Works Council to perform certain activities or to refrain from performing certain activities.
In case a decision is made contrary to the opinion given by the Works Council, the Works Council can lodge an appeal against the decision with the Enterprise Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam, which the court can (depending on the circumstances) oblige the enterprise to withdraw its decision and reverse actions taken as a result thereof; and/or forbid the entrepreneur to perform activities which are an implementation of the decision taken.
What is the European Works Council?
If your company, is part of a multinational organisation, which operates in at least 2 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), you must comply and need to have a European Works Council Directive (EWC). The employees can request an EWC if the organisation has both: 1,000 or more employees in total and at least 150 employees in each of 2 or more EU states, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland. Read more about the Difference between the European Works Council and Works Council Netherlands.