On 25 June 2013 the Dutch Senate approved the bill to amend the Dutch Works Councils Act (Wet op de Ondernemingsraden, “WOR”). This bill contains several changes, which will be explained below.
Training of Works Council Members
The minimum number of days on which Works Council members are entitled to receive training will not change. Per year each Works Council member is entitled to five days of training, while members of a committee are entitled to three days. What will change is the way in which this training is financed. At present, Works Councils that receive training are subsidized by the “GBO” (the Communal Guidance Institute for Works Councils). This subsidy is financed out of the levies employers are paying to the tax office. These levies, and consequently the subsidies too, will lapse. From now on the costs of training will be payable by employers. The bill does not specify an amount of the costs of training; this will have to be negotiated between the employer and the Works Council. The SER (Social and Economic Council) will be given the power to set a target amount for training per half-day. In addition, the bill provides that the Works Council is entitled to receive training of sufficient quality.
Lapse of Mandatory Mediation by Joint Sectoral Committee
Section 36 of the WOR provides for a general regulation of disputes. According to this regulation, if the Works Council and the employer disagree on a provision in the WOR and/or the application of the WOR, they must first apply to the Joint Sectoral Committee for mediation and advice and can only start proceedings before the Subdistrict Court after that. The bill drops the mandatory mediation by the Joint Sectoral Committee, which opens the way to bringing disputes before the Subdistrict Court directly. The option to ask the Joint Sectoral Committee to mediate remains possible, but on a voluntary basis. For the sake of completeness we observe that disputes concerning the right to advise pursuant to Section 25 of the WOR are excepted from the above; such disputes must be brought before the Enterprise Section of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal rather than the Joint Sectoral Committee and/or the Subdistrict Court.
Special Tasks of the SER to Further Employee Participation
The government has decided to make it an explicit task of the SER to further employee participation within businesses. This task, to be specified in Section 46a of the WOR, comprises both the furtherance of compliance with the law and that of the quality of employee participation. The SER has already set up a Committee for the Furtherance of Employee Participation, which will perform this task for it. The members of this Committee are representatives of employees and employers as well as independent members.
Employee Participation in International Group of Companies
It is not always clear to a Works Council what the control structures are like in an international group of companies. A lack of clarity may arise about the role of the local (Dutch) director within the group and consequently about the way and extent to which the Works Council may call this director to account for decisions made by the (foreign) group. In the bill, Section 31 of the WOR clarifies that the right to information of the Works Council also extends to international control structures. As a result it should become explicit, for example, how Works Councils can be involved more closely in acquisitions, mergers, divisions or relocations of international businesses.
It is not clear yet as of which date the bill will become effective. It is anticipated that the implementation date falls within 2013 still, but the actual effective date is subject to a Royal Decree.