How do works councils work and what benefits do they offer (SPAIN)

Works councils are “non-trade union” representative bodies composed of a group of workers from the same organisation whose objective is to represent the rest of the employees in different areas of activity. They are regulated by the Workers’ Statute (ET) in Title II ‘On the rights of collective representation and meeting of workers in the company and are the body that ensures the defence of the interests of the organisation’s workforce in line with the right of employees to be represented in the company, as explained by the Labour Community

According to Article 64 of the ET, the works council “has the right to be informed and consulted by the employer on matters which may affect the workers, as well as on the situation of the company and the evolution of employment in it”. This makes it very useful for workers as it provides a body to which they can turn if they need to be informed about the collective agreement or claim any rights on their behalf from the enterprise, for example.

Is it compulsory to have a works council?

Only companies with more than 1,000 employees are obliged to have a committee by European regulation 97/74/EC, although in those organisations with 50 or more employees it is advisable to create one. The number of members of the works council is determined by the number of workers in the organisation and is between 5 and 75. The scale set out in Article 66 of the TC defines it as follows: 5 members out of 50-100 employees; 9 members out of 101-250; 13 members out of 251-500; 17 members out of 501-750; 21 members out of 750-1,000; and two members out of 1,000 employees and above for every 1,000 or fraction thereof up to a maximum of 75 members in the same works council.

The works council has the capacity and legitimacy to negotiate works agreements and agreements of a lower scope, as established by Article 87 of the ET. Other functions include ensuring that the company complies with the regulations, including equality between male and female workers; being informed of severe sanctions against workers; and receiving copies of signed contracts and extensions of temporary contracts. They must also receive information from the company every three months on the exact situation of the organisation, forecasts (of status, recruitment, overtime) and on accidents at work and absenteeism.

Benefits of being part of the works council

The process of electing staff delegates is what differentiates a works council from a trade union. In the former, they are elected by the company’s workers, while the members of the union sections are made up of members of the union. In the case of the committee, it is announced using a call open to all workers who meet the conditions set out in Article 69(2) of the ET. Thus, all national or foreign workers who are over sixteen years old and have been working there for at least one month may vote, and all workers who are at least eighteen years old and have worked in the company for at least six months may vote. Each voter is entitled to vote for as many candidates as there are seats to be filled, and those who get the most votes will be elected. If there is a tie, the worker with the most seniority in the company will be chosen.

In addition to facilitating the relationship between the company and workers, those who are part of the committee have several advantages set out in Article 68 of the ET: priority for remaining in the company or work centre over other workers, in cases of suspension or termination for technological or economic reasons; being able to express their opinion freely, not being dismissed or sanctioned during the exercise of their duties or within one year of the expiry of their mandate; having a credit of paid monthly hours for the exercise of their representative functions, among others.

“The existence of a committee within the organisation reinforces the company’s image of responsibility towards its employees as it denotes the intention to count on workers when making decisions and assumes the responsibility of having to answer to their representatives,” explains Javier Caparrós, international general manager of – HR Consulting.