Works Council

When you start a job in a new and bigger company, you will encounter that another institution, besides the management, inside the company is interested in you. They are called in English "works council" or in German Betriebsrat. It is admittingly a German "invention" and many countries are considering to oblige corporations to have such.



Happily, I just picked up a job in a large corporation. While reading the papers, I stumbled over “Betriebsrat”, works council. When are they required? What is their business?

Betriebsverfassungsgesetz or Works Council Constitution Act rules in §1 that every company with at least five standing employees is to establish a works council. Members of the works council are elected for four years and elections for new members have to take place during the months of March and May. These councils

  • can and have to fend off declines in the situation for employees.
  • can do something in the cases of admonishments, notices, etc. for the workforce.
  • decide with the management on groupings, classifications, payment of salaries or surpluses.
  • have also to monitor that the law, rules on preventing accidents, tariffs and company’s standard agreements are obeyed.
  • can apply to management for measures of advantage for staff.
  • have also the task to monitor the interests of those needing special attention, e.g. disabled, youth, elderly persons, foreigners.
  • can determine working time with management.
  • can co-determine vacation plans of the employees.
  • have especially to enforce the equality between men and women: engagements, employment, vocational training, and enhance career improvements.
Who qualifies as an employee?

Generally all employees must have an employment contract with the company – including apprentices. There are many exceptions however. They are

  • members of the management or shareholders of the company or corporation,
  • persons whose employment is primarily not orientated in achieving an income but has more charitable, healing, religious or moral educational purposes,
  • spouses and relatives in first degree living in one household with the employer,
  • persons having legal capacity to represent the company.
How many members does a working council have?

Usually a works council has for

5 to 20 employees 1 representative
21 to 50 employees 3 representatives
51 to 100 employees 5 representatives
101 to 200 employees 7 representatives
201 to 400 employees 9 representatives
401 to 700 employees 11 representatives
701 to 1,000 employees 13 representatives
1001 to 1,500 employees 15 representatives
1501 to 2,000 employees 17 representatives
2001 to 2,500 employees 19 representatives
2501 to 3,000 employees 21 representatives
3001 to 3,500 employees 23 representatives
3501 to 4,000 employees 25 representatives
4001 to 4,500 employees 27 representatives
4501 to 5,000 employees 29 representatives
5001 to 6,000 employees 31 representatives
6001 to 7,000 employees 33 representatives
7001 to 9,000 employees 35 representatives

Additional information