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Training rights for employee representatives in EWC and SE works councils

Training rights in Europe overview

This section is made up of three separate sections covering:

  • the national transposition of training rights in the recast EWC directive;
  • the national transposition of training rights in the SE directive; and
  • an overview of rights to time off and training for employee representatives at national level.

In the case of both the EWC and SE directives, it is clear that in most countries legislators have been content to reproduce the wording of the directive almost without alteration, and, where there are significant changes, the influence of national legislation covering national employee representatives is often evident.

 

However, there are differences in who is covered by the training rights provided by the directives, particular in the case of the SE directive. While most countries limit training rights to members the employee representative body in the SE, where it is set up under the standard rules, four countries give these rights to national members of the employee representative body, irrespective as to whether it is set up under the standard rules. Two of these also extend these training rights to employee representatives at board level.

 

The general terms in which most national legislators have transposed these rights leaves room for substantial variation in how they are interpreted, and national legislation and practice is likely to influence this.  An examination of national legislation shows that 13 states make statutory provision for specific time off for training for employee representatives, although only eight define time limits. Closer examination of the situation in the three EU countries with the largest number of companies with EWCs, shows that there are significant differences in the terms under which training rights are provided.

Contents for this section will be expanded in course of 2018 by individual country reports and updated (2018/19).

Training and the recast EWC Directive

The recast EWC directive (2009/38/EC) contains two specific references to the right to training. In the preamble it states that “employees’ representatives … must be able to receive the training they require” in order to “perform their representative role fully and to ensure that the European Works Council is useful.” This is then translated into a legal requirement in Article 10 on the role and protection of employee representatives, where the directive states that “in so far as this is necessary for the exercise of their representative duties in an international environment, the members of the special negotiating body and of the European Works Council shall be provided with training without loss of wages”.

However, this right to training is not available to the members of all EWCs. Article 14 of the directive makes it clear that most of the obligations of the directive, including the obligation to provide training, do not extend to many existing EWCs. The EWCs not covered by the obligations are the so-called voluntary agreements, signed before the directive came into   force , as well as agreements signed or revised between 5 June 2009 and 5 June 2011.

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Training and the SE Directive

The SE directive (2001/86/EC) makes specific reference to the right to training for members of the “representative body” – the EWC equivalent for SE companies – stating that “In so far as this is necessary for the fulfilment of their tasks, the members of the representative body shall be entitled to time off for training without loss of wages”.

 However, this right in the directive is not universal. It is only applicable as part of the standard rules for information and consultation. In other words where either the parties (the Special Negotiating Body and the competent management) have agreed that the standard rules should apply, or where after six months (extendable to one year) of negotiations, no agreement on the form of information and consultation has been reached, but the companies involved still wish to continue with the registration of an SE . In other cases, access to training is as agreed between the parties in the overall agreement on information and consultation.

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L. Fulton (2013) La représentation des travailleurs en Europe. Labour Research Department et ETUI. Réalisé avec l'aide du Réseau SEEurope, publication en ligne, disponible sur : http://fr.worker-participation.eu/Systemes-nationaux