As you know, so-called social elections or elections for the purpose of establishing employee representative bodies (i.e. a works council and committee for prevention and protection at work) must be held every four years within Belgian companies. The next social elections should be held in 2012.

As a gentle reminder, please find below a summary of the main rules on the organisation of social elections within Belgian companies.

Committee for prevention and protection at work

(comité voor preventie en bescherming op het werk/comité pour la prévention et la protection au travail)

As a general rule, a committee for prevention and protection at work must be established in companies that normally employ at least 50 people on average over the four quarters preceding the quarter in which the election date is posted.

Works council

(ondernemingsraad/comité d'entreprise)

In principle, all businesses that normally employ at least 100 people on average over the four quarters preceding the quarter in which the election date is posted must establish a works council. The works council is composed of both employer and employee representatives. The number of employer representatives may not exceed the number of employee representatives. The employer representatives are appointed by the employer from amongst the company's management.

The threshold of 100 employees is lowered to 50 in companies in which a works council has been established or should have been established following the previous social elections, provided the company continues to employ at least 50 people on average.

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Please note that social elections are not used to establish a trade union delegation. Rather a trade union delegation is established at the request of one or more representative trade unions. Industry-level collective bargaining agreements determine the minimum number of employees and the minimum number of employee requests needed to establish a trade union delegation, the number of trade union representatives on the delegation and similar provisions.

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To date, no guidelines on the organisation of the social elections have been issued. However, please note that the National Labour Council issued an opinion late last year on the practical issues that arose during the 2008 social elections, suggesting some solutions. One issue that gave rise to discussion was whether temporary workers should be taken into account when determining the number of positions on the employee representative bodies. Currently, such workers are only taken into account in determining whether the threshold to establish a works council and a committee for prevention and protection at work is met within the company for which they temporarily work (with the exception of temporary workers who replace permanent employees whose employment contracts have been suspended). It is still unclear how the Belgian legislature will resolve this issue.