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Training and the SE Directive

The SE directive (2001/86/EC) makes specific reference to the right to training for members of the “representative body” – the EWC equivalent for SE companies – stating that “In so far as this is necessary for the fulfilment of their tasks, the members of the representative body shall be entitled to time off for training without loss of wages”.

 However, this right in the directive is not universal. It is only applicable as part of the standard rules for information and consultation. In other words where either the parties (the Special Negotiating Body and the competent management) have agreed that the standard rules should apply, or where after six months (extendable to one year) of negotiations, no agreement on the form of information and consultation has been reached, but the companies involved still wish to continue with the registration of an SE . In other cases, access to training is as agreed between the parties in the overall agreement on information and consultation.

The national transposition of training rights into the standard rules

More general national rights

No specific training provision 

The arrangements for taking time off for training

A right to training for board level representatives

Countries without a specific reference to training in the legislation

Conclusions

The national transposition of training rights into the standard rules

 

The majority of countries1 have transposed the directive in this way, making the right to training part of the standard rules, which apply only in the circumstances set out in the directive (agreement that they should apply or failure to reach an agreement). Generally the wording of the directive has been adopted, although there are some cases where the right to training has been specified in greater detail (see below).

More general national rights

 

However, there are three countries where the right to training has not been made part of the standard rules but instead is a right for national representatives on the employee representative body. These are Austria, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. In addition in Croatia, training is both part of the standard rules and a right for national representatives.

No specific training provision

 

In three countries, Hungary, Portugal and the UK, the right to training is not included in the standard rules and there is also no right for national representatives to have time off for training. There is only a general right for members of the employee representative body (and others) to take time off for their duties (see below).

 

The arrangements for taking time off for training

 

In most cases, where the right to time off applies only in the case of the standard rules, the national transposition legislation has more or less repeated the formulation in the directive, stating that time off for training should be given to members of the employee representative body where it is “necessary for the fulfilment of their tasks,” and that it should be paid. However, a few go into greater detail.

 

In three countries, the length of time that can be taken for training under the standard rules is defined:

 

  • Estonia: at least 14 calendar days a year;
  • France: five days economic training, which can be repeated if the individuals have been in office for four years; and
  • Poland: not exceeding two months during their period of office.

 

In two of the four countries where time off for training is provided as a more general right, the legislation defines the length of time which can be taken, or how it should be decided:

 

  • Austria: a period of up to one week during a term of office; and
  • Bulgaria: as determined in the collective agreement or by agreement between the parties. This agreement also determines the level of wages which will be paid.

 

In the Netherlands and Croatia, the length of time which can be taken for training is not defined in the legislation.

 

There are also four countries, among those where training is part of the standard rules, which include addition details on how training should be taken in their transposition legislation:

 

  • Czech Republic: the legislation refers to “the period strictly necessary for training related to the performance of their activities in the employees’ committee,” and it also states that “serious operating reasons” may be a reason to prevent this.
  • France: the legislation states that training should be provided by a body approved by the government authorities or by centres linked to the unions, among others. (This is the legislation relating to national works councils which also applies to SE employee representative bodies. In relation to national works councils it also states that the training should be paid by the works council, although it is unclear how this would work within SEs.)
  • Germany: the legislation makes it clear that it is the European Works Council (the name given to the SE employee representative body in the German transposition) which chooses the members to take part, but says that management should be informed “in good time” about any participation, and that the needs of the company shall be “taken into consideration in relation to timing”
  • Liechtenstein: legislation is similar to that in Germany, stating that those taking part in training are “designated through a decision of the representative body”, that management must be informed in good time, and that “operational needs must be taken into account in fixing the dates”.

 

A right to training for board level representatives

 

Where the right to training is included within the standard rules, by definition it only relates to the employee representative body. However, two of the four countries providing the right to training outside the standard rules, also extend it more widely than to members of the employee representative body. In Croatia, the right to training also covers members of the SNB and employee representatives at board level. In the Netherlands, it covers these two groups and representatives of employees in any other capacity involving the information or consultation of employees.

 

Countries without a specific reference to training in the legislation

 

Three countries, Hungary, Portugal and the UK, do not make a specific reference to training in their transposition legislation, either in the standard rules or as a national right. The legislation in these three countries only makes reference to a right to time off for the performance of their duties:

 

  • Hungary: the legislation states that members and alternate members of the SNB, members of the employee representative body, employee representatives participating in information and consultation procedures and employee board level representatives have the same right to time off as members of the national works councils. This is 10% of their monthly working time for members and 15% for the chair.
  • Portugal: the legislation states that SNB members and members of the employee representation body have the same rights to time off as members of national works councils – in other words 25 hours a month (half of this in very small companies). This is in addition to time-off for meetings and preparatory meetings, including travelling.
  • UK: the legislation gives rights to paid time off to an SNB member, a member of the employee representative body and a board level representative to “perform his functions”.

 

Conclusions

 

In their transposition of the training provisions of the SE directive, the countries affected fall into three main groups:

  • those where, in line with the directive, training rights are only part of the standard rules – this is the largest group, accounting for 24 of the 31 states;
  • those where training is a right for national representatives, rather than only where the standard rules apply – four countries, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, and the Netherlands are in this group, although in Croatia, training rights also apply under the standard rules; and
  • those countries where the transposition does not include a right to training in the standard rules – there are there three countries in this position, Hungary, Portugal and the UK.

 

Four countries set limits on the length of time that training should last and four include details on how training should be taken (one of these, France, also sets a time limit). However, the vast majority of countries simply repeat the wording of the directive in their transposition legislation.

 

Two of the four countries where training is a national right for members of the employee representative body also state that it is to be a right for employee representatives at board level.

 

Where the SE transposition legislation varies from the wording of the directive, the influence of national legislation can clearly be seen. For example, in France the national legislation applies directly. In Germany, the references to the designation of those to be trained by the employee representative body and the need for this to be done in good time and taking account of the needs of the company, directly echo national legislation.

L. Fulton (2013) Arbeitnehmervertretung in Europa. Labour Research Department und ETUI. Erstellt mit Unterstützung des SEEurope Netzwerks. Online-Publikation, verfügbar unter http://de.worker-participation.eu.

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