Works Council

Works Council
Published on: 23 January 2024

Table of contents

The Spanish Constitution and the Workers' Statute recognise the right to organise. However, they can exercise it in different ways. For example, directly, through delegates or through a works council.

But what is the works council and what are its functions within the company? We will answer these two questions and many others in the following lines.

What is a works council?

A works council is a group of people who belong to a company and, in addition, exercise the function of representing the workers who work there. It is a figure regulated in article 63 of the Workers' Statute, which defines it as "a representative and collegiate body" whose mission is "to defend the interests of the workers".

When is the works council compulsory?

Article 63 of the Workers' Statute to which we have just referred resolves this question. Specifically, it states that it must be set up "in each workplace with 50 or more employees".

However, this regulation only establishes the obligation to have a workers' committee for companies with more than 1,000 employees. If the number of employees is between 50 and 1,000, it is determined as a right of the workers, which they must decide whether or not to exercise.

How is the works council formed?

The latter is an important question, as the size of the works council is determined by the number of employees in the company. In this respect, the law determines the following:

  • Between 50 and 100 workers. 5 representatives.
  • Between 101 and 250 workers. 9 representatives.
  • Between 251 and 500 workers. 13 representatives.
  • Between 501 and 750 employees. 17 representatives.
  • Between 751 and 1,000 employees. 21 representatives.
  • More than 1,000 employees. 21 representatives plus two additional representatives for each additional 1,000 employees. The maximum is set at 75 representatives.

However, there are two members of the works council who have a higher rank than the others for organisational reasons. The first of these is the chairman of the works council, whose task is to chair the meetings, ensure compliance with the rules, sign the discharges and moderate the debates. He or she will also be responsible for managing votes and representing the body vis-à-vis public administrations and natural and legal persons. The secretary of the committee is the person who will support the president in the performance of his or her duties.

But who can belong to the works council? In practice, the only requirement is that they belong to the company. However, it is compulsory to be linked to the company by a contractual relationship, so investors, collaborators or any person outside the organisation are not eligible. They must also be over 18 years of age and have been with the company for at least 6 months.

These representatives are elected through democratic elections in which all employees of the company have the right to vote. All those who are 16 years of age or older and who have been employed for at least one month are eligible to vote.

The rights and obligations of committee members

The Workers' Statute and the collective agreements in force provide a number of protections for the members of these committees. For example, they cannot be dismissed because of their activity related to workers' representation. In addition, they must have a time credit paid for by the company to enable them to carry out their duties.

In addition, they will have priority to remain in the company or in the workplace in the event that the company undertakes dismissals for objective reasons or decides to relocate the workplace. However, they also have obligations to fulfil. Some of them are even related to improving work productivity.

The different types of works councils

Although many do not know it, there are three different types, which are:

  • Own. As its name suggests, this is the one that is set up in a single work centre, which must have 50 or more employees.
  • Joint. What happens if a company has two work centres if together they have more than 50 employees, but separately they do not? In this case, the employees of both can decide to form a single committee to represent all of them.
  • European. This is for companies operating in several EU countries. They must have more than 1,000 employees or, failing that, have two workplaces with more than 150 employees each located in different EU countries.

It should not be forgotten that, in some cases, collective agreements give companies the possibility to merge several committees into one. However, the sum of all the employees represented may not exceed 500, which would result in a body with a maximum of 13 representatives.

The functions of the works council

The main function of this body is to represent the employees of the company as a whole. The most important aspect of this is collective bargaining between the employees and the employer. It deals with issues related to the working conditions of the employees, such as, for example:

  • remuneration and the number of overtime hours.
  • Working hours.
  • Holidays.
  • availability on public holidays
  • Teleworking.
  • etc.

This committee is also responsible for monitoring the implementation of the code of business conduct and ethics and for reporting any breaches. It is also obliged to inform employees of any factors affecting their professional relations and to ensure compliance with the rules. It even carries out a monitoring function on the prevention of occupational hazards and equality at work.

It is worth remembering that a works council is not a trade union, even though both entities have the function of representing workers. In this sense, works councils only represent the workers of the workplace or company to which they belong, whereas trade unions represent all workers, or at least those of a given sector or territory.

With this we hope to have made clear what a works council is and all the fundamental aspects related to it. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our labour lawyers.

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