Digital Works Council Meeting in the Corona Crisis.

 On the capacity of works councils to act in times of a pandemic.

Digital Works Council Meeting in the Corona Crisis

For many companies, the corona crisis is becoming a stress test. This also affects the workplace. Some of the issues are working from home, short-time work or closures . A functioning works council is elementary, even in these difficult times, because decisions need to be made and agreed on.

Personal Works Council Meetings Currently Not Possible

The Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG) stipulates that a prerequisite for a functioning works council meeting is a personal meeting of the members of the works council. This means the physical presence of the members of the works council. This is of course difficult in times of Corona. In order to ensure the works council is not put out of commission by Covid-19, the Federal Government is now planning an amendment to the Works Constitution Act – initially only limited until December 31, 2020 – and in doing so wants to provide legal clarity.

Works Council Meeting via Phone or Video

The proposed change is to allow works council meetings by telephone or video conference. For this purpose, a new Article 129 will be added to the BetrVG. Shortly before Easter, the cabinet decided on a corresponding special regulation. However, the Bundestag must still approve the change.

Regarding works council meetings via telephone or video conference, it has to be ensured, as usual, that third parties do not have the chance to gain knowledge of the meeting’s contents. However, it has not yet been clarified how exactly this guarantee is to be provided or when it is provided.

Formalities for Works Council Meetings Survive

In the event that the new regulation is adopted, the usual formalities must be observed for telephone or video conferences, such as inviting works council members, agenda and also registration of attendance by telephone or video. All works council members must also be able to attend the meeting. Works councils can then pass resolutions in electronic conferences and make statements to the employer.

Resolution by Silence Procedure Not Yet Possible

The possibility to hold electronic/digital works council meetings is all the more important because even in times of crisis, it is not possible to pass resolutions by circulation procedure. The BetrVG stipulates that resolutions can only be passed in a meeting with physical presence.

In order to maintain the works council’s legal capacity, the Bundestag is required to quickly pass the planned BetrVG’s new regulation. Furthermore, it would be desirable to allow digital works council meetings even after the Corona crisis. The BetrVG would be in dire need of this push for modernization.