Establishing a Works Council

Establishing a Works Council

It is only possible to establish a Works Council if there are enough eligible voters (active suffrage) (at least five) and eligible candidates (passive suffrage) (at least three) in employment.

The Works Council election shall be held in accordance with the basic principles of equal, direct and secret suffrage. When preparing for and holding a Works Council election, certain election procedures as well as dates and deadlines are compulsory. Members are usually elected for five years.

Calling a works meeting

The Works Council election shall be initiated by a works meeting. All company employees shall be invited if this is a joint Works Council for workers and employees. If there are separate Works Councils, however, then a group meeting shall be held. The works meeting or group meeting shall be convened by the Works Council. If there is no Works Council or it is temporarily out of operation, the following persons shall be entitled to convene the meeting:

  • The oldest employee (in terms of age) or
  • At least as many employees as there are members of the Works Council standing for election.

In companies with over 20 employees, a competent voluntary professional association or the legal body representing the interests of the employees can convene the works meeting. A prerequisite here is that the entitled personnel mentioned above have not called the works meeting within the last two weeks, despite having been asked to do so.

Passive and active suffrage

Those eligible to stand for election (passive suffrage) are all employees who:

  • Are 18 years old on the day the notice of elections is given and
  • Have been employed for at least six months within the company or the group to which the company belongs.

Those eligible to vote (active suffrage) are – regardless of citizenship – all employees who are 16 years of age on the day of the works meeting and are employed by the company.

This also applies for the following employees:

  • Regularly employed homeworkers
  • Employees on parental leave, military service/compulsory community service or in semi-retirement
  • Temporary staff, if integrated in the business (an employment period of six months is not required)

Board members, directors and senior executives are not entitled to vote. 

For the Central Works Council, these additional provisions shall apply.

Further links

Legal basis

Arbeitsverfassungsgesetz (ArbVG)

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 1 January 2024

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy

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