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Reflexive Regulation of Employee Involvement at EU-Level: Implementation and the Example of the United Kingdom

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Abstract:

A defining feature of the European social model is the importance that it ascribes to the development of mechanisms that enable employee representatives to take part in decision-making processes within their organisations. Within this context, it has been suggested that the adoption of the 2001 Directive supplementing the Statute for a European company, the so-called Societas Europaea (SE), offers a basis for the establishment of ‘Europe-wide standards for the inclusion of employees, information and consultation as a codified European standard with consequences for national labour systems, and additional participation in cross-border companies’ (Kluge, 2004: 5). After examining the emergence of EU regulation in the area of employee involvement, the chapter examines the process for the adoption of the SE Directive and its final institutional design. In allowing substantial flexibility in implementation, the SE Directive follows a similar regulatory approach to the one used in Directive 94/45/EC on European Works Councils (EWCs) and Directive 2002/14/EC on the general framework on Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE). Based on this suggestion, the chapter then draws on evidence from the impact of the EWC and ICE Directives in the British system of industrial relations so as to highlight potential issues of interest when examining the impact of the SE Directive on information and consultation practices. While a combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ elements of regulation – as evidenced in the regulatory approach followed in all three Directives – allows EU social policy to address some of the current social and economic challenges, the utilisation of such techniques in unreceptive employee involvement environments may be less successful than appears from some legal theory analyses.

The regulation of employee involvement has been one of the most distinctive features of social and employment policy at EU level. Following the 1972 Social Action Programme initial steps to this direction were taken in 1975 and 1977 with the adoption of Directive 75/129/EC providing information and consultation rights in the events of collective redundancies and Directive 77/187/EC on transfers of undertakings. Framework Directive 89/391/EC introducing measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers followed in 1989. Going beyond the requirements to inform and consult workers’ representatives, Directive 89/391/EC stipulated that the employer has the duty of ‘balanced participation in accordance with national law and/or practice’ (Article 11, para. 1). As Gold (2007) suggests, these EU legislative initiatives aimed significantly at the approximation of national laws regulating employee participation in the specific areas, i.e. collective redundancies, transfers of undertakings and health and safety matters. In order to secure this outcome, substantive standards for employee involvement were introduced – albeit restricted at national level – through the recognition of information, consultation and limited participation rights.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3726/978-3-0353-0381-0_5

Publication date: January 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • The European Company Statute
    The European Company Statute (ECS) is one of the most important pieces of company legislation adopted so far by the European Union. Its aim is to regulate, on a voluntary basis, the internal functions of a business operating in more than two European countries at the same time. This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the history, structure, legal basis and likely impact of the ECS, examining its evolution over some 30 years of development and its chances for integrating diverse models of corporate governance across the European Economic Area. The book explores the implications of the ECS for employee participation at various levels in the European company, with country case studies drawn from Greece, Slovenia and the UK. It also analyses certain legal issues, including taxation and the position of companies located in countries without existing systems of employee board-level participation.
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