Works council or staff representation

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Checked 10 May 2022
3 min read
Nederlandse versie

Does your company employ 10 people or more? You need to set up a works council (ondernemingsraad, OR), staff representation (personeelsvertegenwoordiging, PVT), or hold staff meetings (personeelsvergadering, PV). It depends on the number of employees which type of representation of you need to set up.

Works council, staff representation, or staff meeting?

The rules on staff representation are laid down in the Dutch Works Councils Act (pdf, Wet op de ondernemingsraden, WOR).

You employ fewer than 10 individuals

An employee representative body (personeelsvertegenwoordiging, PVT) or staff meetings (personeelsvergadering, PV) are optional.

You employ 10 to 50 individuals

You can set up a works council, but you do not have to. If you do not want to set up a works council, you must have staff representation if the majority of your employees requests one. This staff representation (PVT) should have at least 3 members. If your employees do not request a PVT, you must hold staff meetings at least 2 times a year. This way, your employees can participate in the decision-making.

You employ 50 individuals or more

You must make sure that a works council is established. If you have more than 1 company, make sure that every one of them with more than 50 employees has its own works council. A joint works council is possible when your companies each employ less than 50 people, but the sum total exceeds 50.

Works council rights and responsibilities

The works council has rights to promote and protect the interests of employees, such as:

  • the right to prior consultation if decisions or measures are taken which can majorly impact your employees
  • the right of consent in the event of changes to the terms of employment (such as working times or employment conditions)
  • the right of proposal: if the works council makes a proposal, you need to discuss it with them at least once before taking a decision

The works council meets with the employer at least twice a year. The size of the works council (in Dutch) depends on the number of people you employ.

Works council members

Anyone on your staff who has been employed by you for at least 3 months is eligible to vote and has the right to stand for election for the works council. The works council can choose to change these terms in their regulations.

  • It makes no difference which type of contract an employee has: permanent or fixed-term, full-time or part-time.
  • Temporary agency workers who have worked for you for 18 months may also vote and stand for election for the works council.

Do you disagree with a change in the works council's terms, for example on nomination or elections? You can ask the subdistrict court to change these regulations.

You must ensure that the works council members have the time to do their work associated with the council. You and the works council members decide in consultation how many hours this is. It must be at least 60 hours per year. By law, members of the works council are entitled to training leave (in Dutch). They may add this training leave to the training leave that might already be in place for all of your employees. You pay the full training costs for members of the works council directly to the educational institute.

Protections for works council members

You cannot fire elected works council members (in Dutch). Only in specific circumstances a works council member or member of a staff representation can be fired:

  • closure of (a part of) your company
  • their position is discontinued for financial reasons, but only if they have been in their position for at least 26 weeks
  • their actions cause grounds for dismissal with immediate effect (such as fraud or theft)

Employees who are involved with setting up employee representation, are candidate for works council election, are former works council members (for up to 2 years), or are member of the preparatory committee have the same protection as current works council members.

Exemption from works council obligation

If exceptional circumstances prevent the proper implementation of a works council, you can apply for an exemption with the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER).

European Works Council

Businesses that are part of a multinational organisation which operates in at least 2 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) must comply with the European Works Council Directive (EWC Directive). Employees can request an EWC if the organisation has either:

  • 1,000 or more employees in total
  • at least 150 employees in each of 2 or more EU states, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Iceland.

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Please contact the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO