How much time does EWC work take?
Somewhere down the line, EWC members are bound to have a heated discussion about how much time they can devote to their EWC tasks. This is especially the case for Chairpersons and Secretaries. Clear regulations in this respect are often lacking. However, there are some useful points of departure and practical examples.
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According to the Dutch EWC Law, insofar as is reasonably necessary for the execution of their task, EWC and BOG members will be given the time, with full pay, for consultation and deliberation with other persons regarding matters that involve them in the exercise of their function, and to receive training ad instruction.
This clause assumes a certain amiability in relations with management, but the time when this was true for practically every company is long gone. Without such positive relations, it can become tricky to determine what exactly is "reasonably necessary".
Moreover, this clause in the Dutch EWC Law only applies to people employed in the Netherlands and those affiliated with a special negotiation body (bijzondere onderhandelingsgroep, BOG) or with an EWC. Thus, there can be big differences within a Dutch multinational's EWC as to how much time members are allowed to dedicate to their EWC work.
Nevertheless, the French legislator has given a guideline, which can be found in the "subsidiary provisions" for French multinationals, the safety net that serves as a minimum. According to these provisions, the members of the Select Committee are entitled to 120 hours with full pay per year, with the exception of extraordinary circumstances and aside from the time spent in meetings. In the French 35-hour week system, these 120 hours amount to approximately 17 days. In other terms, just under half a day per week, taking into account bank holidays and vacation time. Especially for the Chair, this may prove insufficient.
It is therefore useful to make clear arrangements in an agreement about the amount of time that can be spent on EWC work, regardless of the EWC member's country of origin. Two recent agreements illustrate this.
The recently concluded Hema agreement contains an annex detailing the provisions for EWC members. It stipulates that the allotted meeting time for EWC members is set at 45 hours per 3 years, and at twice that for Select Committee members. On top of that, EWC members can spend up to 60 hours annually on internal consultation. These hours are meant for conferring with colleagues and experts and consulting one another. The meeting time and consulting time does not include travel time. Travel time is paid as worked time.
In case of special circumstances requiring additional meetings, extra provisions are agreed upon and made available.
A separate amount of time for collective instruction and training is also agreed upon: one day per year for EWC members and twice that for members of the Select Committee and commissions. For individual instruction and training, individual agreements are made.
There are a few good examples of arrangements to be found abroad. Such is the case for the British Council where, in addition to the EWC agreement, a separate Code of Practice was agreed upon. This Code contains arrangements with central management and is directed towards local management to clarify which provisions must be made for EWC members. EWC members receive 50 to 100 hours annually, depending on the circumstances. The Select Committee members are allotted an additional 100 to 150 hours. And this does not include meeting time. The Code also expressly states that extra time is required for local consultation and possibly to visit other branches.
The clauses set forth in such agreements lay a foundation ‒ a minimum for all EWC members and Select Committee members. Should these people be entitled to claim more time according to their national legislation, then legal provisions take precedence. Unless it is only a provision in the legal safety net model.