Living up to the European Union concept of employee involvement

Manfred Weiss (Johann Wolfgang Goëthe University of Frankfurt, Germany)

Managerial Law

ISSN: 0309-0558

Publication date: 1 December 2005


Employee involvement in management’s decision making has been a challenge for the European Community (EC) since its beginning. Already in view of the six founding countries the European Economic Community (EEC) was confronted with a significant degree of diversity between the different Member States. This diversity increased with every enlargement, in particular when in 1973 the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland became members and much later in 2004 when Central and Eastern European (CEE) States together with Malta and Cyprus were included. This diversity in the area of employee involvement in management’s decision‐making is well documented. Therefore, it may be sufficient for the purpose of this paper to only give some broad indications. There are countries, as for example Germany, Austria, the Netherlands or Luxembourg, which have systems with a dual structure where employee involvement in management’s decision‐making institutionally is separated from the trade unions, even if in actual practice the links between the two are significant. In other countries employee involvement is based on two pillars: both the trade unions and a body elected by all em ployees. This is the case in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain. In the Scandinavian countries employee in volvement is exclusively in the hands of the trade unions. In countries like Ireland and the U.K. employee involvement for a long time was more or less a taboo subject for the trade unions. The fear of being compromised in opposing measures through their industrial strength prevented them becoming integrated into the mechanism of decision‐making in companies. Only recently ‐ mainly due to the EU input ‐ this attitude is changing gradually. Italy has developed an interesting mixture of its own. Even if it may be possible ‐ as just indicated ‐ to discover or gani ‐ sational similarities between the systems of different countries, the still remaining differences should not be overlooked. It has to be added that in some countries employee involvement in manage ment’s deci sion‐making is exclusively based on legislation (as for example in Germany), in others exclusively on collective agreements (as for example in Scandinavia) and again in others on a mixture of both (as for example in Belgium). The subject matters for employee involvement are as different as the degree of participation, ranging from mere information to co‐determination. And only some countries know employee involvement in company boards whose systems again differ significantly from each other. In short, there is a wide spectrum of patterns of employee involvement in management’s decision‐making and some countries where such involvement is virtually unknown.



Weiss, M. (2005), "Living up to the European Union concept of employee involvement", Managerial Law, Vol. 47 No. 6, pp. 42-58.

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