EWC: Rules for communicating via company intranet confirmed

A European Works Council (EWC) may not communicate directly with employees using the employer’s intranet or email system. So decided the Labour Court Lorrach (docket number: 5 BV 7/12) in a case where the EWC of a multinational group with over 11,600 employees in Europe asked the company’s European central management to publish the EWC’s own uncontrolled intranet web page within the corporation’s intranet. The argument intensified as the EWC intended to include on its intranet page a disputed report relating to the annual meeting between the EWC and central management.

The decision of the Labour Court clarified that all actions and requests of an established European Works Council require a legal basis in the national laws implementing the EWC Directive 2009/38/EC. This legal framework defines the representation and means of communication within the company. The court held that neither the Directive nor the German EWC statute provided a legal basis for direct communication between the EWC and employees. In particular, the court ruled that the EWC was not entitled to request its own intranet page to publish content without agreement with the central management. Instead, the EWC was bound by law  to communicate with the national employee representatives, and should only approach employees directly if no national representatives have been established.

As a practical follow up, corporates with an established EWC may wish to review their current understanding of regulated communications between the group`s EWC and their employees. It should be noted, however, that an existing agreement between central management and the EWC about intranet use and direct communication with the workforce would be binding on the corporation.