In a recent decision, Germany's Federal Labour Court has ruled that training for Works Council members regarding its current rulings may, in certain circumstances, be necessary under the Works Constitution Act. This article summarizes that decision and outlines the key themes of the Works Council’s general right of training in light of the current decision.
When training for Works Council members is regarded as necessary under the German Works Constitution Act, the employer not only has to release the employee concerned from his/her duties on full pay, but must also bear the costs related to the training, including board and lodging. For employers with a large numbers of Works Council members, this can be a significant expense.
As to whether training is necessary, German Labour Courts generally distinguish between basic knowledge training and other training events. Basic training, in particular relating to the Works Constitution Act, general Labour Law and accident prevention regulations, is, in general, only necessary for newly elected Works Council members. Any further training must be related to a current or foreseeable operational or other matter within the Works Council's remit for it to be justified. The Courts argue that basic training will enable the new Works Council member to fulfill his/her official tasks and duties. For other training, there must be a good reason to justify the assumption that the special skills to be acquired by the training are required by the member, to enable the Works Council to exercise its participation rights properly and professionally.
The right to training under the Works Constitution Act is not an individual right of each Works Council member, but rather a collective right of the Works Council for specific members to be trained in specific matters so that they may undertake the work of the council.
According to this, training of individual Works Council members with regard to the recent jurisdiction of the Federal Labour Court may be necessary. However, this depends on a number of factors, not least on the specific content of the training, the distribution of tasks within the Works Council including the specialization of individual Works Council members on specific topics, the number of Works Council members to be trained relative to the overall size of the Works Council, the last time that training was given, as well as company-related developments which may make it more critical to update knowledge of recent case law on certain issues and can only be assessed by the specific circumstances of each case.
The necessity of training must be considered on a case by case basis, and depends on the specific situation in the company and the needs of the Works Council, whereas the Works Council has a margin of appreciation. In this context it should also be noted that even if Works Council members have the ability to research or train themselves by reading specialist journals, law books or the internet, etc, the right to participate in other training events is not excluded, but rather the two are complementary.