What is a Works Council?

In The Netherlands the Works Council [ondernemingraad, OR] is an internal body representing employees and promotes and protect the interest of the employee. The Works Council has consultation rights in respect of certain significant proposed management decisions. Furthermore, they have approval rights in respects of intended company decisions regarding employment policies. The rules concerning staff representation are described in the Dutch Works Councils Act (WCA)  [Wet op de ondernemingsraden, WOR].

IMPORTANT: The most recent version of the Dutch Works Council Act is only available in Dutch language. There is a translation available  published by the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) in 2013, but it is recommended to not use this version as it’s not up to date. As soon as a correct English translation is available we will make sure to publish it on this platform.

For information please CONTACT US to make sure you are compliant by law.




A business entity is obligated by the Works Councils Act to establish a Works Council, depending on the number of employees that work within the company based on an employment agreement.

Do you employ 1 to 10 Employees?

Your company may establish a staff meeting on a voluntary basis.

Do you employ 11 to 49 Employees?

On the request of the majority of employees a Works Council can be set in place based on a voluntary decision. On the request of the majority of employees, there is an obligation by the WOR to set up an employee representative body [Personeelsvereniging].

An employee representative body is not the same as a Works Council. If an employee representative body is established, staff meetings need to take place and are entitled to prior consultation.

Do you employee 50 Employees and more?

Based upon the Dutch Works Councils Act (WOR) a Works Council is mandatory to be established.

In case your company owns more than 1 company, please ensure that each company with 50 employees and more has its own Works Council. A joint Works Council is possible when those companies each employ less than 50 people, but the total amount of employees is 50 or exceeds this number.


The purpose of a Works Council is to benefit both the employer and employees, through both representation in the workplace and a having a forum in which constructive feedback can allow the business to progress. The works council rights and interests are solely intended to protect employees in the working environment.

Right to be Consulted

Right to be Consulted WOR art. 25 and art. 30 – discuss important decisions regarding the organisation including Appointment / dismissal director.

Right for Consent

Right of Consent WOR art.27 – discuss decisions on changes in employment related matters.

Right to be Informed

Right to be Informed WOR art. 31 – general active and passive right: supply the Works Council upon request and provide as company on own initiative all information in writing reasonably necessary for the proper fulfilment of their tasks and duties.

Right for Initiative

Right for Initiative WOR art. 23  – discuss topics at or outside the regular consultation meetings with the company.

Non Compliance

Business changes can only be implemented after the Works Council process has been followed. In case of non-compliance, the Works Council may (after interference of the Branch Committee), request the Cantonal Court to declare the entreprise to comply with his obligations. The Cantonal Court may further, upon request of the Works Council or the employees, oblige the employer of the Works Council to perform certain activities or to refrain from performing certain activities.

In case a decision is made contrary to the opinion given by the Works Council, the Works Council can lodge an appeal against the decision with the Enterprise Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam which court can (depending on the circumstances) oblige the entreprise to withdraw its decision and reverse actions take as a result thereof; and/or forbid the employer to perform activities which are an implementation of the decision taken.

What is a Trade Union?

Trade Unions are (independent) organisations, representing employees within a certain industry or business sector. They are negotiating Collective Labour Agreements of employment. This is an exclusive role - Works Council will on average not have a say in this. The Trade Union has information and consultation rights in respect of collective dismissal and have right in respect to mergers and considered with are considered to fall within the scope of the Dutch jurisdiction.

Please read more about the differences between a Collective Labour Agreement per company and a Collective Labour Agreement per Business Sector.

What is an European Works Council?

If your company, is part of a multinational organisation, which operates in at least 2 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), you must comply and need to have an European Works Council Directive (EWC). Employees can request an EWC if the organisation has both: 1,000 or more employees in total and at least 150 employees in each of 2 or more EU states, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland.

Read more on the Difference between the European Works Council & Works Council Netherlands.