On February 14 2013, the Dutch Lower House of Parliament approved a legislative proposal amending the Dutch Works Councils Act (WOR), which sets out the rights and obligations of employers and Works Councils. The proposal must be approved by the Upper House before it can come into force.
This legislative proposal addresses the following:
- education and training for Works Council members;
- employee participation in international group companies;
- abolition of the compulsory procedure before the Joint Sectoral Committee (JSC);
- the special duty of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) to promote employee participation.
The current Act grants Works Council members the right to a certain number of days per year (during working time and with full pay) to pursue training and education useful to fulfil their duties. The legislative proposal introduces the requirement that training and education must be of sufficient quality and that the costs must be met by the employer. The SER will set target amounts for this purpose, which will play a role in the consultations between the employer and the Works Council.
Extension of the right to be informed
The current Act provides that the employer must inform the Works Council of the corporate structure of the organisation. It is unclear how far that obligation extends. In practice, Works Councils are not always familiar with the group structure of international companies. To address that, the legislative proposal aims to extend the obligation to inform the Works Council to any employer that is part of an international group of companies. The employer will have to inform the Works Council of the members who belong to the group of companies and of the control structure.
Mediation by Joint Sectoral Committee
The cantonal division of the court is the forum to settle a number of issues. Before a conflict between the Works Council and the employer is submitted to the cantonal division, mediation must be requested from the JSC. In practice, parties do not always want the JSC to mediate (e.g. where the conflict is unsuitable for mediation or because mediation proceedings can take a long time). The legislative proposal is to abolish the compulsory requirement for mediation.
Special duty of the SER
The SER (composed of representatives of employer organisations and employee organisations as well as crown-appointed members) will be conferred a new duty, i.e. to promote employee participation in companies. The SER has set up a committee to undertake exercise this task.
We now have to wait to see if these proposals are approved by the Upper House; we anticipate that approval will be given.