Works councils

Current information about works councils, their powers, participation in staff-related, social and economic matters, etc.

Information for newcomers

In every company employing at least five wage-earning employees who are entitled to vote, employee bodies (in particular works councils) must be set up.

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.

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 councilGerman text 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 councilGerman text may be formed.

The contact person for employers is the chairperson of the works council or their deputy.

Works councils constituted before 31 December 2016 are normally elected for a term of four years; those constituted after 1 January 2017 for a term of five years. Members of the works council enjoy special protection against dismissal and redundancy.

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.

In companies with more than 150 employees, one member of the works council must be completely released from other duties. This requires an application to be submitted by the works council. In companies with more than 700 employees, two members must be released; in companies with more than 3,000 employees, three members must be released, with one further member released for every additional 3,000 employees.

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 24 February 2023

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy

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