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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Information and consultation in multinational companies

If you work for a multinational company you may have the right to be informed and consulted about important 'transnational' workplace issues. Transnational issues are ones that affect your company's workplaces in more than one country.

The right to be represented on a European Works Council

You may have rights under the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees (TICE) Regulations 1999, if you work for a business that is:

  • part of a multinational company
  • operating in at least two countries in the European Economic Area (EEA)

The TICE Regulations give employees in multinational companies with at least 1,000 employees, the right to be represented on a European Works Council (EWC).

A EWC is an information and consultation forum designed so employees in different EEA member states can be informed and consulted about transnational issues affecting the company.

Some large multinational companies use EWCs to form part of their global information and consultation network. Others set up EWCs following a request from their employees.

Asking for a European Works Council agreement

You can ask that a EWC is set up if the business you work for:

  • has 1,000 or more employees
  • has at least 150 employees in each of two or more EEA member states

For a request to be valid it must be made by at least 100 employees in at least two undertakings in two or more member states.

Once a valid request has been received, your employer must make the necessary arrangements for you to elect or appoint representatives to a special negotiating body (SNB).

Special negotiating body

A special negotiating body (SNB) is made up of employees’ representatives from each EEA member state where your company has employees. Its role is to negotiate with your employer’s central management over the composition (make up) and terms of the EWC.

Once a SNB has been set up, the parties have up to three years to negotiate a EWC agreement in order to work out:

  • how the EWC will be set up
  • what it will discuss
  • how often it will meet

A negotiated EWC agreement must set out:

  • what parts of the company will be covered by the agreement
  • the composition (make up) and function of the EWC
  • the procedure for information and consultation with the EWC
  • the venue, frequency and duration of EWC meetings
  • the financial resources that will be available to the EWC
  • how long the EWC agreement will last for
  • how it will be renegotiated

If you cannot reach agreement then your EWC will need to meet the needs of the standard (fall-back) provisions which are set out in the TICE Regulations. The standard provisions are much more clear and detailed about what the company must consult over and when.

Your employer should try to be as open as possible with the EWC, but they are allowed to withhold certain information if its disclosure would seriously harm the company.

Protection for employees and employee representatives

If you ask for a EWC agreement or take part in one, either as an employee or an employee representative, you have certain rights. You are protected against detriment (unfair treatment) or unfair dismissal by your employer for any reason around:

  • asking for information from your employer
  • requesting a EWC agreement
  • standing as a candidate in a SNB or EWC election
  • any of your duties around being an employee representative

If you are a SNB representative or a EWC representative you are entitled to take reasonable, paid time off during working hours to perform your representative duties. 

You can complain to an Employment Tribunal if you exercise your rights under the TICE Regulations and your employer:

  • does not let you take reasonable, paid time off
  • dismisses you unfairly
  • subjects you to a 'detriment' - this means you are disadvantaged at work, for instance you do not get a pay rise or your hours are cut back

You or your representatives could complain to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) if your employer:

  • doesn't consult employees properly under the TICE Regulations
  • fails to set-up an arrangement under the information and consultation standard provisions set out in the TICE Regulations

If the CAC upholds (supports) the complaint your representatives (or you) can apply to the Employment Appeals Tribunal to ask them to impose a financial penalty of up to £75,000 on your employer.

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