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Germany: Employee representation

Updating author: Dr Anke Freckmann and Dr David Plitt, Osborne Clarke, Germany

Original author: Karen Ullmann

See the legal services provided by the author of International > Germany, including any discounts/offers for subscribers.


  • Generally, works councils elected by employees represent them on operational matters at business unit or company level, and trade unions represent employees' overall interests at industry level. (See Dual system)
  • A works council may be elected at business units with five or more employees, at the initiative of the employees or a trade union represented in the business unit. (See Works council elections and membership)
  • Senior executives are not represented by works councils, and instead have their own representative structures (See Executive committee)
  • Members of a works council may not be disturbed in or hindered from performing their activities. (See Works council members' protection and facilities)
  • The law obliges the employer to engage in "trustful cooperation" with the works council. (See Works council's duties)
  • A works council has a wide range of information, consultation and co-determination rights regarding the employer. (See Works council's rights)
  • A conciliation committee should be set up, at the employer's expense, to resolve differences of opinion between the employer and the works council. (See Conciliation committee)
  • Every three months, a works council must hold a works meeting for all employees and report on its work. (See Works council information for employees)
  • When a company consists of two or more business units with works councils, it must establish a company works council. (See Company and group works councils)
  • Companies with trainees or at least five employees under the age of 18 must set up a youth and trainee representative body. (See Youth and trainee representative body)
  • In establishments with at least five employees with severe disabilities, these employees may elect a representative and at least one deputy. (See Representation of people with disabilities)
  • Community-wide active companies must, in certain circumstances, establish a body to negotiate with management over the establishment of a European works Council or an information and consultation procedure. (See European Works Councils)
  • Employees in companies with more than 500 employees are entitled to board-level representation. (See Board-level representation)