What is a European Works Council and how is it set up?

European Works Councils are bodies representing the European employees of a company. Through them, workers are informed and consulted by management on the progress of the business and any significant decision at European level that could affect their employment or working conditions.

Member States are to provide for the right to establish European Works Councils in companies or groups of companies with at least 1000 employees in the EU and the other countries of the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), when there are at least 150 employees in each of two Member States.

A request by 100 employees from two countries or an initiative by the employer triggers the process of creating a new European Works Council. The composition and functioning of each European Works Council is adapted to the company’s specific situation by a signed agreement between management and workers’ representatives of the different countries involved. Subsidiary requirements are to apply only in the absence of this agreement. The obligations arising from the Directive do not apply to companies which already had an agreed mechanism for the transnational information and consultation of their entire workforce when the Directive took effect in 1996.


What legislation was it transposed to in Ireland

The European Works Council Directive 94/45/EC, updated by Directive 200/38/EC (Recast) was transposed in to Irish law by the Transnational, Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996 as amended by the recast directive of 2011.


What does it mean?

The Act sets out:

  • The required numbered of employees for an European Works Council (EWC) to be set up
  • The process and the timeframes to set up a EWC
  • The process for election of representatives
  • Content of meetings
  • What has to be contained in a EWC agreement
  • Definitions of Consultation, Information and Transnational
  • Protections for Employee representatives carrying out their duties
  • Facilities and paid time off for training for EWC representatives
  • That the employer meets all costs associated with the EWC, including employee expenses
  • The use of EWC Experts and Trade Union officials
  • Dispute resolution mechanisms
  • Offences and Penalties


SIPTU’s Role

SIPTU provides support, assistance and training to EWC’s and the employee representatives. SIPTU has a designated EWC Expert to assist with all aspects of EWC’s. SIPTU also works closely with European Trade Union affiliates that are sector specific such as Industriall, EFFAT and EFBWW to name but a few, for the purposes of protecting and furthering worker’s rights across Europe.

Through SIPTU’s Training partner the IDEAS’S Institute, we can deliver tailor-made training, specific to European Works Councils and their representatives. SIPTU’s EWC Expert is also available to those seeking professional assistance and advice in all matters concerning European Works Councils and through our networking SIPTU has compiled a comprehensive data base of other likeminded professionals who can bring a range of skills when required to assist on the smooth implementation and running of EWC’s throughout Europe.


Going Forward

With the implementation of Brexit, this will mean that many more EWC’s will be relocating their legal base from the UK to Ireland and that in itself will bring many complications, but through our work here in Ireland and by working closely with our colleagues in Europe we can overcome these obstacles, and ensure better EWC’s for employees.


For further information please contact SIPTU's European Works Council Expert Denis Sheridan at dsheridan@siptu.ie


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