A Works Council is a tool for you, the employee, to understand what your rights are and to ensure that your voice is heard by your management. A Works Council advocates for better conditions both at an individual level (for example: hiring, transfers to other job positions, regrouping of employees and termination of employment) as well as the company level (for example: information on staff planning, and consent to employees’ questionnaires).
In addition, the Works Council can legally request company information that is otherwise kept secret (e.g. financial situation of the company, future business plans, payment comparisons between different genders or races within the company).
Importantly, every member of a potential Works Council would be an experienced employee of the company - not an external who doesn’t understand the issues we face. A Works Council is a tool to ensure guidance by trained employees to arbitrate on their coworkers’ behalf. The workforce needs to be organised, to have points of reference for what they can expect or ask of our employer.
Germany’s laws give Works Councils rights and protections that make them much more powerful than individual employees. If you’d like to know more, see this Twitter thread by ver.di, the union we are collaborating with, or this page detailing the specifics.
How does a Works Council operate?
Under the Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz), a Works Council can be set up in all private sector workplaces with at least five employees.
All non-managerial employees of N26 GmbH and N26 Operations GmbH can vote on the candidates for the Electoral Board of the Works Council. This vote will take place on the 13th of August for N26 GmbH, and on the 14th of August for N26 Operations GmbH.
All employees of N26 GmbH and N26 Operations GmbH can volunteer as candidates for the Electoral Board. There is no need to submit your nomination in advance, simply speak up at the meeting on the 13/14th August.
The Electoral Board members will then organize a further election, where employees can vote on the members of the Works Council. To make sure that they follow all laws and procedures, Electoral Board members will participate in a training preparing them for carrying out their duties.
Works Council members are elected by employees for a term of 4 years, and they cannot be dismissed during their tenure. The company needs the approval of the Works Council or the German Labour Court before firing any of these employees.
However, since Works Council elections are held in the same year for all companies across Germany, and the next election year is 2022, the first term of the Works Council at N26 will only be around 1.5 years.
What is the difference between a Works Council and a union?
A Works Council is specific to a company, and consists of employees elected by other employees. It has consultation or co-determination rights in company-internal matters such as shift planning, promotions, working hours, hiring/firing, and more. Works Councils have no political agenda or affiliation.
Unions work for employee rights on a national (or international) level. Over the years, they have secured rights that we now take for granted in Germany, including healthcare coverage, paid holidays or workplace safety regulations. Most German unions have members from several different industries, educational backgrounds and income levels.