Social Elections: simplification, modernisation and continuity

Every four years social elections take place within companies that have at least 50 employees.

On 2 June 2015, a new Act was adopted relating to the organisation of the 2016 social elections. The 2016 social elections will be held between the 9 and 22 May 2016.

The new Act integrates existing acts and regulations into one Act and aims to simplify, regulate and modernise the procedure used for social elections.

The threshold of workers needed for the setting-up of the Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work, remains at 50 employees. The threshold of workers needed for a Works Council is at least 100 employees. Whether a company reaches the threshold for the total number of employees must be evaluated before the social elections take place.

Previously, employers could opt for electronic transmission of data and documents relating to the procedure via the Federal Public Service for Employment Labour and Social Dialogue website. The Act further computerises the procedure and stipulates that trade unions can now submit their lists of candidates electronically to the employer, however, they are not obliged to do so. In addition, it will also be possible to file a complaint or change the lists of candidates electronically. Once a trade union has opted to submit information electronically, this procedure must be followed for any subsequent adjustments.

The Act also provides that the employee holding the position of the ‘person of trust’, can no longer be a candidate for a mandate in the Works Council or have a seat as an employer’s representative. These new incompatibilities were created to ensure that the ‘person of trust’ is placed on an equal footing to the prevention adviser, who cannot have a seat as an employer’s representative in the Works Council or in the Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work.

It is important for companies to be well organised and prepared for the upcoming social elections. The administrative procedure for the social elections starts 150 days before the date of the elections, which means that companies will need to start the procedure in December 2015. Before that date, it is important to check the number of employees to establish the employee threshold and to check whether or not several entities form one or separate business units.