The works council a body representing employees rights

The works council: a body representing employees’ rights

Your individual rights as an expat employee are safeguarded by the Dutch, fairly protective, labor law legislation. However, many rules that apply to your employment contract can be determined through discussions between your employer and the works council. This body consists of a number of employees elected through internal elections within a company. The works council has extensive rights in the field of employment conditions arrangements. We would like to explain the importance of the works council for your rights.

Establising a works council in your company

A works council (in Dutch: “ondernemingsraad”) is a form of employee representation within a company. A works council is different from a union, which is involved in creating collective labor agreements for an entire industry. The works council represents the interests of the employees, having a legal right to be involved in major decisions that affect them. If your company has more than 50 employees, a works council must be established. If there is currently no works council, you and your colleagues can take the initiative to establish one. This has many benefits for employees, and often for the company as well, as decision-making by the works council can lead to more support for decisions within the company.

The formal rights of the works council

Under the law (the Works Councils Act), the works council has extensive rights regarding proposed decisions by the company. A brief overview:

• Right to information: the works council can request information from the company regarding legal structure, business plans, data, annual reports, etc.;

• Right to initiate: the works council can propose agenda items for the management and ask questions that must be answered regarding all affairs relating to the companies business;

• Right to advice: If the organization would propose a decision regarding reorganizations, collective dismissals, relocation of the company, mergers or acquisitions, major investments: for all such decisions of the company, the works council has the legal right to give advice in advance;

 • Right of consent: this statutory right of the works council applies to any significant changes in collectieve employment arrangements that the board of directors wishes to implement. This includes collective company arrangements on e.g. pensions, profit sharing, working conditions, working hours, and benefits.

When considering whether to agree to decisions proposed by the board of directors, the works council carefully considers the interests of the employees.

Your involvement in the works council

A Works Council is a body elected by all employees through a secret ballot. If you are chosen by your colleagues as a member of the works council, you will have additional legal protection. The employer may not disadvantage you through sanctions such as suspension, warnings, or dismissal because of your role as a member of the works council. Additionally, the employer must provide time and money to the works council and its members for meetings of the works council, training as a member of the works council, and for engaging external advisors such as lawyers.

If the works council feels that the board of directors is not cooperating, they can initiate legal proceedings at the cantonal court.

Training and advice

The works council has a significant influence on decision-making regarding financial and economic decisions and employment-related decisions within the company. It gives employees a say in these matters. For many expats and companies starting in the Netherlands, the Works Councils Act may be unfamiliar. In addition to providing advice to works councils and their members, we also offer training on the rights of the works council.

More information

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