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HR Magazine, October 2003 - To Consult and Inform

By Andrienne Fox  10/1/2003
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HR Magazine, October 2003

Vol. 48, No. 10

The Rest of Europe

While the United Kingdom and Ireland are the only current European Union (EU) member states with no record of regulatory information and consultation (IC) requirements, the 10 countries acceding to the EU next year (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia) will need to pass legislation to comply with the directive.

Accession countries employee relations structures tend to be in tatters, notes Tom Hayes, chief executive of Brussels-based EIRI Associates, which consults multinationals and trade unions on industrial relations. They are really in the beginning process of constructing this, so the directive will have a significant impact for companies there as well.

The remaining EU countries have some form of IC or works council laws on the books, but the content of those laws varies widely. There will still be material variations in the power of the works councils in EU countries post-implementation of the IC directive, says Martin Hopkins, partner at Eversheds Human Resources Group in Birmingham, England.

He adds that the most restrictive countries are Germany, France and the Netherlands, which have had works council structures for decades and require not only consultation on employment-related matters but agreement.

U.S. companies with operations in Germany, France and the Netherlands are accustomed to dealing with works councils. While companies are not cheering the spread of IC requirements to traditionally free market countries, they welcome the flexible approach taken by the UK government. Ireland is expected to follow the United Kingdoms lead.

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