Changes to the European Works Council directive, which requires multi-national organisations to inform and consult their European workforce on transnational issues, came into force on 5 June.

The Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1088) implement the changes in the UK required by the recast directive 2009/38/EC..

This followed a review by the European Commission in order to increase the number of European Works Councils (EWCs) established; to improve the effectiveness of information and consultation in EWCs; to provide legal certainty; and to improve coherence between European and national-level consultation.

The main changes are as follows:

  • New obligations to inform and consult in a way that enables EWC members to undertake a "detailed assessment" of the possible impact of business decisions, and give their opinion.
  • A new definition of “transnational” so that a matter will be considered to be transnational if at least two member states are involved.
  • A new clause requiring management to provide EWC members with the "means required" to carry out their duties.
  • A new right to training for EWC members and special negotiating bodies to carry out their duties.
  • A requirement to link consultation at EWC level with national employee representation bodies.
  • An increase in the time limit for making complaints to the Central Arbitration Committee about a failure to comply with the Regulations from three to six months
  • An increase in the maximum penalty from £75,000 to £100,000.

 

The new directive does not apply to agreements for transnational consultation which were entered into before 22 September 1996 (Article 13 agreements). Likewise, companies where agreements to establish new EWCs were concluded between 5 June 2009 and 5 June 2011 or where existing agreements were revised during this time.

The right to establish EWCs was introduced by Directive 94/45/EC for undertakings or groups of undertakings employing at least 1,000 employees in the European Union and the other countries of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) with at least 150 employees in each of two member states.

About 970 EWCs now represent over 15 million employees.