In every company employing at least five wage-earning employees who are entitled to vote, employee bodies, in particular works councils [Betriebsrat], must be set up. Works councils constituted after 1 January 2017 are normally elected for a term of five years. Members of the works council enjoy special protection against dismissal and redundancy.
There will be no legal consequences if the staff do not elect a works council. However, employers may in no way hinder the election of a works council.
The contact person for employers is the chairperson of the works council or their deputy.
If a company employs on a permanent basis at least five wage-earning employees who are entitled to vote and at least five salaried employees who are entitled to vote, two separate works councils must usually be elected. Together, both works councils form the works committee.
If an undertaking consists of several centrally-managed companies forming a single economic unit, a central works council must be established. The members of the central works council must be elected from among the members of the works councils established within the undertaking. In the case of corporations, a group works council may be formed.
The members of the works council must be released from their duties for a sufficient amount of time to exercise their tasks. They must continue to be paid during such periods.
At the request of the works council, in companies
- with more than 150 employees, one member of the works council
- with more than 700 employees, two members
- with more than 3,000 employees, three members, with one further member for every additional 3,000 employees
must be completely released from other duties.
The works council is entitled to monitor compliance with the legal provisions applicable to the company's employees. For this purpose, employers must grant the works council the right to inspect the company's internal records pertaining to its employees (e.g. wage and salary lists, staff records).
Moreover, employers must:
- immediately inform the works council of any occupational accidents;
- invite the works council to participate in company inspections by the authorities or the Labour Inspectorate;
- inform the works council of scheduled negotiations and the intervention of official bodies.
The works council is entitled to request that employers take measures to remedy any shortcomings with respect to affairs concerning employees' interests. The works council has the right to make proposals on improving working conditions, in-house training, accident prevention and creating a healthy working environment.
Employers have an obligation to report to the works council, upon its request, about any issues pertaining to the economic, social, health-related or cultural interests of the company's employees.
Employers must inform the works council about automated processing of personal employee data, and enable it to verify the reasons for such processing.
It is obligatory for employers to conduct joint consultations with the works council at least every quarter, or every month if requested by the works council, in order to discuss ongoing issues, general management principles with respect to social, staffing, economic and technical matters, and the nature of labour relations in the company, and to inform the works council of any important matters. The works council must be provided with the documents necessary for this consultation, where requested.
With respect to all aspects of health and safety, employers must in particular:
- inform the works council of any relevant matters in good time
- ask the works council for its opinion in good time
- consult with the works council the matters in question
- grant the works council access to documents, records and reports
Furthermore, employers must consult the works council on any planned recruitment or dismissal of safety staff and occupational physicians.
The time limits vary depending on the individual obligations.
Right to information on staffing
Employers must inform the works council in good time of future staff requirements and the staffing measures planned in that respect.
Recruitment of employees
Employers must notify the works council immediately whenever a new employee is recruited. This notification must provide information about the intended role and grade of the employee, their wage or salary, and any agreed probationary period or time limitation on the employment relationship.
Employers must notify the works council immediately of any permanent transfers of employees to another site. It must be consulted thereon if requested. If the transfer to another site is associated with a deterioration in pay or other working conditions, the works council must grant its approval in order for the transfer to take legal effect.
Employers must inform the works council of any intended promotions as soon as possible, and must consult the council upon its request.
Employers must inform the works council before making any dismissals. The council will have one week to produce its opinion on the dismissal. At the request of the works council, it must be consulted on the dismissal within this one week consultation window.
Employers must inform the works council immediately about any redundancies, and must consult it with respect to such redundancies within three working days after notification if requested.
The time limits vary depending on the individual obligations.
Participation with respect to on-the-job vocational training and education
Employers must inform the works council about planned measures with respect to in-house vocational training and education or retraining. The works council is entitled to submit proposals with respect to in-house vocational training, education and retraining, and to request the implementation of measures. Employers are under an obligation to discuss such proposals and requests with the works council.
Participation with respect to in-house welfare facilities
The works council is entitled to participate in the management of in-house welfare facilities.
Information on training and education is to be provided at the earliest convenience.
Information, intervention and consultation rights on economic affairs
Employers must inform the works council about the economic and financial status of the company and its projected development, the nature and degree of production volumes, order volume, sales by volume and by value, investment plans and other planned measures to increase the profitability of the company. At the request of the works council, it must be consulted regarding this information.
The works council must be provided with the necessary documentation, where requested.
Participation with respect to changes in the company
Employers have an obligation to provide the works council with sufficiently complete information about any planned changes in the company in a timely manner so as to allow the works council to draw up an opinion and to allow consultations to be held on such changes between the employer and the works council.
- sections 89 to 92b of the Arbeitsverfassungsgesetz ( ArbVG)
- sections 98 to 106 of the ArbVG
- sections 94 and 95 of the ArbVG
- sections 108 and 109 of the ArbVG
Works councils (→ ÖGB)German text
Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy