Home / National Industrial Relations / Countries / Slovak Republic / Workplace Representation

Workplace Representation

Recent years have produced major changes in legislation favouring works councils over workplace trade union organisations. Both can now exist in the same workplace and powers are divided between them, although the precise balance between the two has varied as a result of the changes recent governments have made.




Until 2002 local trade union bodies were the only organisations legally entitled to represent employees at the workplace. This had been the situation from the creation of a separate Slovak Republic in 1993, and in practice for more than 30 years before that. However, legislation in April 2002 allowed for the introduction of works councils but only in companies without trade union representatives. Just over a year later in July 2003 this legislation was itself amended to allow works councils to be established at all workplaces, including those with unions, taking responsibility for information and consultation away from the unions and giving it to the works councils, where they exist. A revised version of the Labour Code, which came into force in September 2007, subsequently reduced the powers of works councils, giving some of their responsibilities back to the local unions.



In 2011, the pendulum swung again with works councils being given the right to negotiate agreements in companies with no unions (see section on collective bargaining). However, as noted in the section on collective bargaining, this change has been reversed and since January 2013 only unions have had the right to negotiate agreements on pay and conditions.



Other changes to the Labour Code, introduced in 2011, also potentially made it more difficult for unions to represent employees at the workplace. These changes allowed employers to ask unions setting up for the first time to demonstrate that they had at least 30% of the workforce in membership, before accepting them as representing employees. However, the government elected in 2012 reversed these changes with its own amendments to the Labour Code which came into effect in January 2013. Unions at the workplace can again represent employees irrespective of their level of membership, other than the requirement to have at least three members (see below).



Works councils are only established where at least 10% of the workforce ask for them and they are found less frequently than union representation. Annual surveys undertaken by the survey company Trexima for the Ministry of Labour Social Affairs and Family have found that unions are present in almost twice as many organisations as have works councils. In 2011 32.3% had unions but only 17.3% had works councils. These percentages have fallen over the period 2008 to 2011, and in 2008 the ratio was slightly more than two to one – 43.6% with unions and 19.2% with works councils.1

Numbers and structure



Apart from the requirement that a local union organisation must have at least three members, there are no legal regulations on the numbers and structure of the local union organisations. This is for the union to decide.



Works councils must be set up in organisations with at least 50 employees provided that 10% of the workforce requests this in writing. If there are fewer than 50 employees and 10% of the workforce has called for it, a single “works trustee” must be elected, who has the same rights and duties as a works council.



The size of the works council is as follows:



50-100 employees



3 members



101-500 employees



1 additional member for each additional 100 employees



501-1,000 employees



1 additional member






1 additional member for each additional 1,000 employees




The law does not say anything about the frequency or organisation of meetings, although it states that, if there is both a union and a works council in a workplace, a representative of the union body can attend meetings of the works council if a majority of its members are in favour.



Tasks and rights



Employees, either through a union or a works council (works trustee in smaller organisations), are to participate in the “creation of just and satisfactory working conditions” through

  • joint decision making,
  • negotiations,
  • the right to information, and
  • the carrying out of inspections and control activity.


Joint decision-making rights cover very few issues – most importantly work rules, which are invalid without the prior consent of the employee representatives and the distribution of working time, which should be agreed with them.



The requirement to negotiate “with the goal of achieving an agreement” is more extensive. It covers planned and future levels of employment, especially where it is under threat, health and safety issues, changes in work organisation and other changes such as the ending of some activities or the taking on of new ones.



In addition, there is collective bargaining on pay and conditions, although following the changes to the Labour Code which came into effect in 2013 (see above), it is again the case that only the union organisation can undertake collective bargaining.



Information rights cover these issues and employee representatives are also entitled to information on the economic and financial situation and future prospects of their employer.



The carrying out of inspections and control activities relate to ensuring that the obligations resulting from labour law and from any collective agreement covering the workplace are fulfilled and to health and safety. In terms of labour law and collective bargaining obligations, the control rights include the right to enter premises at an agreed time, to ask for documents, to make proposals to remedy faults and to report failings to the appropriate authorities.


In health and safety only the union has a specific right to carry out safety inspections and make proposals for improvements, reporting deficiencies to the labour inspectorate.



If only one employee representative body, either a union or a works council (works trustee), exists at the workplace, it carries out all of these duties, although a works council cannot now undertake bargaining on terms and conditions and it does not have the health and safety inspection rights.



If there is both a union organisation and a works council at a workplace then the powers of the two bodies are divided. The union body is involved in joint decision making, collective bargaining, inspections and the receipt of information; the works council is only involved in negotiation (although not collective bargaining) and in receiving information. (The balance of duties between the union and the works council was changed by the 2011 Labour Code amendments, which gave more powers to works councils. It was then changed again to the current situation, in which the majority of powers lie with the union by the changes to the Labour Code which came into effect in 2013.)



The Labour Code requires employee representatives, whether unions or works council members, to cooperate closely.


Election and term of office



The election and term of office of representatives coming from local trade union organisations is a matter for the union concerned. Typically they are elected for two to five years.



Works council members and works trustees are elected by secret ballot of the whole workforce with either the union or 10% of the workforce being able to propose lists of candidates. Members serve for four years.



Protection against dismissal



Discrimination against employee representatives, either as part of a local union organisation, works council or works trustee is illegal. During their term of office and for six months afterwards, their dismissal is illegal without the prior consent of the employee representatives or a decision of the court.



Time off and other resources



Employee representatives have rights to paid time off – union representatives to perform trade union activities and works council members (or the works trustee) to undertake their works council duties. The amount can be agreed between the employer and the representatives, but if there is no agreement, the representatives are entitled to a total of 15 minutes per month per employee. This total is then divided between all the employee representatives, both the union and the works council, if they are both present. If the employee representatives cannot agree on the distribution of the time off, they can call on an arbitrator to make the decision. The employer has the right to check whether the time off is being used for the purpose for which it was provided. It is possible for time off not used to be taken as monetary compensation by the union or works council if there is an agreement to this effect. (Time off rights are another area, where the 2013 Labour Code restores rights that had been lost. For a period, paid time off depended on reaching an agreement with the employer.)



Employers should also provide employee representatives with “facilities with the necessary equipment” free of charge.



Representation at group level



This is only provided through union structures for union representatives. There is no group structure for works councils.

L. Fulton (2013) Worker representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI. Produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.