How can workers enforce a general election

Works council - why?

A question that some employees have probably asked themselves before: What do we actually need a works council for? What does he do for me, what advantages does he offer me and my colleagues, what are his tasks, rights and obligations? Should I maybe get involved and stand for election?

We have explained these and other questions to you in the following, and we hope to be able to arouse your interest in the office of the works council! Find out here how important the works council function can be for your company.

Why is a works council important?

Good reasons for setting up a works council

What does a works council do?

Duties and rights of the works council

Protection against dismissal for works council members

Why is a works council important?

Whoever wants to be heard has to speak“Former Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said.

Whoever wants to talk needs a voice. For the workforce, this voice in the company is the works council. And the following applies: It pays to have a say!

Just try it out. What do you mean? On how many of the following questions can the works council have a say in the interests of the employees:

  • The employer wants to order employee Helga S. to work overtime for a week.
  • The employer would like to relocate the company to another federal state.
  • The employer would like to introduce target agreements and performance-based pay.
  • The employer would like to terminate employee Rainer T. because this year he fell ill for the fourth time.
  • The employer wants to install surveillance cameras in the offices after there have been increasing complaints about theft.

The answer may surprise you:
The works council can have a say in all these questions, even if it cannot decide.

Good reasons for setting up a works council

1. Waiver of a works council = waiver of important employee rights
The works council body represents the interests of the employees of a company and is therefore authorized to negotiate and, if necessary, enforce them. So renouncing a works council also means renouncing important employee rights - and who would be happy to forego an important part of their rights?

2. The works council has a say in dismissals
The works council must be informed and consulted about every dismissal. If the works council objects to a dismissal, it cannot prevent it - but it significantly improves the chances of the employee in the event of a dismissal protection suit before the labor court. If the works council is not informed of a termination, it is even ineffective.

3. With works council much more information
As a rule, the works council must make its work public at least four times a year.
This means that the employees are always up to date with the latest information - so they always know about the processes in your company. And those who are better informed can also have a better say.

4. The works council can have a say in company holidays, short-time work, working time accounts, etc.
Especially in times of crisis, employers tend to take measures to help the company survive this time unscathed - often at the expense of the employees. This is not easily possible with a works council: it has co-determination rights in many measures that an employer is considering to safeguard the company - and not only in uncertain times!

5. The works council monitors compliance with laws and collective agreements
The works council is most likely to have the opportunity to see whether legal regulations are being complied with in the company. For this task, he even has the opportunity - depending on the operational situation - to receive special training in order to be familiar with the relevant laws and ordinances.

6. The works council can make suggestions for flexible working hours
The works council has a say in the legal and collective bargaining framework when it comes to structuring the working conditions. This does not only apply to questions such as B. the rules for the protection of non-smokers and addiction prevention, but also things like the situation of the daily working hours, target agreements or patient return discussions. So the works council z. B. make suggestions for the flexible arrangement of working hours, for example, should be easier to combine family and work for individual employees.

7. The works council can influence corporate strategies
The works council can use its say in order to safeguard employment, e.g. B. to prevent or promote the outsourcing of work to external companies - depending on the initial situation. He can even develop and suggest ways and measures that secure and promote jobs in his company in the long term.

8. Reconciliation of interests and social plan in the event of downsizing - it won't work without the works council
The works council can not only have a say in the event of dismissals, it can ensure a social plan in the event of staff reductions under certain conditions - and if necessary even enforce it. Only with a works council can it be comprehensively guaranteed that the economic and social consequences for the employees concerned are kept in view!

9. The works council is entitled to training
Only the works council, through its legally regulated training entitlement, has the opportunity to acquire important legal knowledge that is required for its daily work. In this way, he can face the employer on an equal footing, because he knows the rights and obligations in the respective situation. And to stick with the topic of training and further education: In addition to its own training requirements, the works council can also arrange for the qualification needs of colleagues to be determined and processed. More information on the legal training entitlement.

10. Protected from termination
The works council as the mouthpiece of the employees may sometimes be uncomfortable for the employer - e.g. B. if he fulfills his office and wants to prevent measures by the employer through his right of co-determination or wants to enter into negotiations. Some employees are therefore afraid of being dismissed. But don't worry: if you are elected to the works council, you are protected against dismissal and a general prohibition of discrimination.

11. Not without my works council!
There are often face-to-face conversations between employer and employee in which the employee is concerned. Here, the employee in question has the right to call in a works council member in order to have an advisor at his side who can support him thanks to his knowledge of labor law.

12. The works council can monitor sanctions
The works council also has the opportunity to check the proportionality of the sanction and to have a say in the event of possible (punitive) transfers and other measures that the employer instigates or plans against employees who have become suspicious.

13. The works council protects against surveillance
At least since the scandals that became known, the issue of employee surveillance has come under heavy criticism. The works council can also have a say in these issues. Whether video surveillance or PC controls - the works council can reject measures or at least help shape them.

14. Enjoy your work!
With all the rights and duties that the works council has, one mustn't forget the most important thing: Works council work is fun! You can initiate and achieve a lot for yourself and your colleagues, gain more insight into your company and can develop yourself through the given training requirements, e.g. B. in professional negotiation.

What does a works council do?

The works council ensures that the workforce is well represented vis-à-vis the employer.


The works council is an ear and adviser for colleagues in the company:
  • He offers a works council consultation hour for questions, complaints, etc.
  • He involves the workforce (e.g. through the works meeting, surveys, etc.)
The works council is the mouthpiece of the workforce:
  • He represents and informs the workforce.
  • It bundles the ideas and interests of the workforce
The works council gives the employer its ideas:
  • The works council can develop its own ideas, which the employer must discuss with it. An example: proposals for securing employment.
The works council is a team:
  • The committee only makes important decisions together.
  • For this he has the right to meetings.
The works council is a negotiating partner for the employer:
  • Works council and employer should work together and negotiate trustingly. This is provided for by the Works Constitution Act.


In order to put these things into practice, the works council has so-called Participation rights. They restrict the employer's unilateral right of determination and are sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker - depending on what it is about. In this way, the works council can help shape the "operational order". What is meant are binding rules of conduct, e.g. B. Non-smoker protection.
We have summarized the most important principles of participation rights for you in the following paragraph. The detailed regulations can be found in the Works Constitution Act.

Duties and rights of the works council

The works council ensures that the interests of the workforce are adequately taken into account by the employer. He should take care of the concerns of colleagues, examine their suggestions and, if necessary, bring them to the employer and make suggestions as to how employment in the company can be secured and promoted.

In addition, he has to ensure that the laws, ordinances and collective bargaining agreements that apply to the workforce, as well as accident prevention regulations and any company agreements, are complied with.

In the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG), the tasks of the works council are divided into three main areas: social, personal and economic matters:

1. Participation in social affairs

If there is no statutory or collective bargaining agreement, the works council must have a say in the following social issues in particular:

  • Organization of the company:
    z. B. Design of binding rules of conduct such as B. for addiction prevention
  • Working time regulations:
    z. B. Location of working hours, introduction of shift work or flexible working hours, location and duration of breaks, overtime and short-time work
  • Vacation regulation:
    in particular, drawing up the vacation schedule, distributing any company holidays and fixed bridging days over the calendar year
  • Wages:
    all questions of company wage structuring, such as B. Perks or other benefits granted to the workforce in relation to job performance, including bonuses and target agreements
  • Technical control facilities:
    z. B. Telephone data acquisition systems, personnel information systems, facilities for controlling Internet access
  • Work-and Healthprotection:
    In particular, prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases

The works council's right to participate in social matters:
The works council has an equal say. I. E. the employer cannot make any regulation here without the consent of the works council. The works council can also enforce regulations in this area of ​​its own accord if the employer remains inactive (right of initiative).

2. Participation in personnel matters

The works council has participation rights when it comes to the establishment, content, change and termination of employment relationships. The extent to which the works council is involved depends on the type of personnel measure:

  • Before everyone Hiring, regrouping or regrouping (in company or collectively agreed remuneration systems) and every transfer, the works council must be heard. He has a right of veto, but may only refuse his consent for reasons that are expressly stated in the law in Section 99 (2) BetrVG. The temporary use of Temporary workers.
  • In front of a termination the works council must be heard. He can object, but in principle cannot prevent the termination. However, if the works council is passed over, d. H. not heard at all, wrongly or too late, the dismissal of the employee concerned is not effective.
  • The works council is also to be involved in the design of Personnel questionnaires and Assessment principles as well as measures of operational training. He can also make suggestions to the employer Job security submit.

3. Participation in economic matters

In economic matters, the works council is entitled to various participation rights, even if these are limited, since it involves entrepreneurial decisions that the works council cannot fundamentally prevent.

  • On the one hand, from a certain company size, an economic committee must be formed, which has the task of discussing economic matters with the entrepreneur and informing the works council about them. The economic committee has various rights to information, information and advice.
  • On the other hand, the works council is involved Operational changes to participate. This concerns z. B.
    -> the relocation of the company
    -> Changes to the company organization
    -> intended shutdowns
    -> staff reductions

Such decisions usually result in significant disadvantages for the workforce. The employer must inform the works council in good time and comprehensively about the planned measures and advise them with him.

The employer must contact the works council for a Balance of interests endeavor, d. H. an agreement on the if, when and how of the planned operational change. The employer must also agree with the works council on the compensation or mitigation of economic disadvantages that arise for the employees as a result of the planned change in the company (social plan).

Protection against dismissal for works council members

In principle, the works council enjoys special protection against dismissal. This is to prevent sanctions for works council members who come into conflict with the employer as a result of works council work. The works council is particularly protected for its voluntary work in order to be able to stand up for the employees. Corresponding regulations also apply to the electoral board members and the initiators of works council elections.

However, this is not a free ticket: Conversely, it does not mean that a member of the works council can now do anything - in hardship he can be terminated just like any other employee. If he violates fundamental rights and laws, e.g. B. by theft or willful destruction, the hardship of dismissal and the law hits him just as it would normally be the case with all other employees.