Union density in Croatia is close to the EU average with around a quarter of employees in unions. However, union organisation is fragmented with three nationally representative union confederations and many unions outside these larger bodies, although legislative changes have resulted in some consolidation.
There are no official figures on union density in Croatia, although a recent estimate places it at around 26%.  This suggests a total of some 300,000 trade unionists.
The latest official figures, published in July 2018 and relating to membership in November 2017, indicate that at that point there were 252,140 members in the three nationally representative trade union confederations (see below for the rules on nationally representative trade unions), and there are many tens of thousands of trade unionists outside these three bodies.
This reflects the fact that the trade union movement in Croatia is fragmented (only 10 people are required to set up a trade union). Lists published by Ministry of Labour and Pensions System show that as of 30 July 2017, there were 328 unions registered nationally with the ministry – in other words operating in more than one of Croatia’s 21 counties – and 298 registered and operating in just a single county. In addition, there were 23 higher level union organisations – bodies made up of at least two unions – including the three nationally representative confederations.
Until 2013 there were five nationally representative union confederations. However, legislation, passed in July 2012 and July 2014, tightened the rules on which bodies can be considered nationally representative.
Under the 2014 legislation, union confederations can only be considered nationally representative, and so have a right to participate in national tripartite bodies and have some specific collective bargaining rights (see section on collective bargaining), if they have:
- union affiliates which together have at least 50,000 members;
- at least five union affiliates operating in different areas of the economy;
- regional offices or offices of its affiliated unions in at least four counties; and
- the appropriate premises and material resources, including at least five full-time permanent employees, to carry out their activities.
The three union confederations which have managed to clear all these hurdles and become nationally representative are:
- SSSH with 94,622 members in 25 affiliated unions; it has regional offices in all 21 counties and 35 full-time employees;
- the NHS, with 96,870 members in 59 affiliated unions;
- MHS, also known as Matica, with 60,648 members in 26 unions; its teachers’ union affiliate has regional offices in four counties and it has five full time employees.
The figures relate to November 2017. Since then the police union with 13,000 members has affiliated to SSSH.
There are also two union confederations, HURS (previously HUS) and the URSH confederation, which are not nationally representative and did not attempt to gain this status in 2018, presumably because they knew they would not meet the necessary conditions.
HURS was accepted as being nationally representative in 2012 when it was registered as having 54,009 members. It is possible that it will merge with MHS, as the leaders of the two confederations signed a cooperation agreement on 19 July 2018, under which the two unions aim to set a joint body within 12 months. HURS has 55 affiliated unions.
The URSH confederation was treated as being nationally representative under the pre-2012 rules but lost this status when the membership threshold was increased from 15,000 to 50,000. Its current membership is unclear, although in the past it stated it had around 24,000 members. It has a cooperation agreement with MHS
There appear to be no major political divisions between the union confederations, although there is competition for unions between union confederations, and this may amplify the divisions that do exist. In the past, several unions have switched between union confederations, with the head of education at the SSSH, then the largest confederation, arguing that one reason for these switches was that individual unions were looking to save money. Facing falling membership they left the SSSH, which had a larger central staff and therefore higher affiliation fees and affiliated to other confederations with lower fees or remained unaffiliated to any confederations. It is certainly noticeable from the latest figures that SSSH, with 35 employees, has a larger staff than either NHS with 11 or MHS with five.
Membership is considerably higher in the public sector than in the private sector. However, there are no overall official figures for union density in either sector.
Unions generally appear to have lost membership in recent years, although the lack of precise data makes it difficult to judge. The figures collected for the purpose of establishing whether a union confederation has sufficient members to be nationally representative show the numbers rising from 440,439 in 2000, to 456,793 in 2004, before falling back to 423,964 in 2009 (although the numbers are affected by the number of confederations presenting figures).  By 2012, these numbers had fallen to 328,518, and currently, based on 2017 figures, there are just 252,140 members in the three nationally representative trade union confederations. However, these statistics do not include members of unions not affiliated to a national confederation or affiliated to one not seeking national representative status. They therefore substantially understate union membership.
Despite this it seems that union density is falling in Croatia, with a recent estimate suggesting that while union density had been stable at some 35% for around 15 years up to 2009, it had subsequently fallen and by 2014 was about 26%, a fall of a quarter in just five years.
There are no official figures on women’s membership of unions, but the SSSH estimates that 40% of its members are women.
 Esitimate by Dragan Bagić, quoted in Annual Review 2018 of Labour Relations and Social Dialogue: Croatia by Darko Seperic, Friedric-Ebert-Stiftung http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/bratislava/15355.pdf (Accessed 17.07.2019)
 Rješenje Povjerenstva za utvrđivanje reprezentativnosti, Rarodne Novine, 7 July 2018, https://narodne-novine.nn.hr/clanci/sluzbeni/2018_07_59_1243.html and SSSH i dalje reprezentativan za sudjelovanje u tripartitnim tijelima na nacionalnoj razini, SSSH http://www.sssh.hr/hr/vise/nacionalne-aktivnosti-72/sssh-i-dalje-reprezentativan-za-sudjelovanje-u-tripartitnim-tijelima-na-nacionalnoj-razini-3491
 Popis sindikata registriranih u Ministarstvu rada i mirovinskoga sustava http://www.mrms.hr/ministarstvo-rada-i-mirovinskoga-sustava/socijalno-partnerstvo/katalog-zakona-i-propisa/popis-sindikata-registriranih-u-ministarstvu-rada-i-mirovinskoga-sustava/ (Accessed 17.07.2019) and Popis sindikata registriranih u uredima državne uprave u županiji, odnosno uredu Grada Zagreba nadležnim za poslove rada http://www.mrms.hr/ministarstvo-rada-i-mirovinskoga-sustava/socijalno-partnerstvo/katalog-zakona-i-propisa/popis-sindikata-registriranih-u-uredima-drzavne-uprave-u-zupaniji-odnosno-uredu-grada-zagreba-nadleznim-za-poslove-rada/ (Accessed 17.07.2019)
 Popis sindikata više razine registriranih u Ministarstvu rada i mirovinskoga sustava http://www.mrms.hr/ministarstvo-rada-i-mirovinskoga-sustava/socijalno-partnerstvo/katalog-zakona-i-propisa/popis-udruga-sindikata-vise-razine-registriranih-u-ministarstvu-rada-i-mirovinskoga-sustava/
 Zakon o kriterijima za sudjelovanje u tripartitnim tijelima i reprezentativnosti za kolektivno pregovaranje, NN 82/12 and Zakon o reprezentativnosti udruga poslodavaca i sindikata, NN 93/14,
 Annual Review 2018 of Labour Relations and Social Dialogue: Croatia by Darko Seperic, Friedric-Ebert-Stiftung http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/bratislava/15355.pdf (Accessed 17.07.2019)
 See websites of MHS https://www.matica-sindikata.hr/matica-hrvatskih-sindikata-i-hrvatska-udruga-radnickih-sindikata-sklopile-sporazum-o-otvaranju-procesa-udruzivanja-u-zajednicku-sindikalnu-sredisnjicu/ and HURS http://hurs.eu/sporazum-o-otvaranju-procesa-udruzivanja-u-zajednicku-sindikalnu-sredisnjicu/ (Accessed 02.12.2018)
 HURS Website http://hurs.eu/udruzeni-sindikati/ (Accessed 02.12.2018)
 See Croatia: industrial relations profile, by Danijel Nestić, Eurofound, 2014, by Predrag Bejaković and Irena Klemenčić http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/country/croatia.htmhttp://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/comparative-information/national-contributions/croatia/croatia-industrial-relations-profile (Accessed 16.04.2015)
 See Annual Reviews on Labour Relations and Social Dialogue in South East Europe: Croatia (2009 to 2012) by Ana Milićević Pezeli, 2011 to 2013 Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
 See The effects of the economic crisis on industrial relations in Croatia, by Hrvoje Butković, Višnja Samardžija and Sanja Tišma, 2012, quoting a presentation by the then Minister of Labour Marko Krištof in May 2012
 Industrial relations in Croatia and impacts of digitalisation on the labour market, by Višnja Samardžija, Hrvoje Butković and Ivana Skazlić, IMRO, 2017
 ETUC Annual Gender Equality Survey 2018 – 11th edition, by Lionel Fulton and Cinzia Sechi, ETUC, 2018
Collective bargaining in Croatia currently takes place at industry and company/organisation level, with company bargaining growing in importance. Legislation, determining which unions are entitled to negotiate and strengthening the position of larger unions, was passed in 2012 and revised again in 2014.
Collective bargaining currently takes place at both industry and company/organisation level. There are now no economy-wide agreements, although there is a tripartite economic and social council, bringing together unions, employers and government, which has played an important role.
There is no automatic hierarchy governing the relationship between company/organisation agreements and industry level agreements, which can cover the same employees. (There is an industry agreement and a large number of company agreements in the construction industry, for example.)
2014 Labour Act states that if there are differences between terms and conditions in different agreements or arrangements or in individual employment contracts, it is the position most favourable to the employee that applies.
There are no official statistics on the coverage of collective bargaining, in part because agreements reached in companies and organisations, now the dominant level for collective bargaining, are generally not recorded centrally. However, a study published in 2016, estimated that 53% of employees were covered by collective agreements, although there were big differences between sectors and industries. While 88% of employees in public services were covered (including 100% in central government), coverage was just 39% in the rest of the economy – 75% in state-owned and only 33% in privately owned businesses.
The main rules on collective bargaining and collective agreements are set out in the 2014 Labour Act, although key elements, covering which unions are entitled to bargain and conclude collective agreements, were revised in two rounds of later legislation on the representativeness of unions in 2012 and 2014.
The rules, which are essentially the same for industry-level and company-level agreements, require that a collective agreement must be in writing, that it must define its area of application, that it must be published, and that it is legally binding on those who have signed it, although in practice agreements cover all employees, not just union members, as to fail to do so could be seen as discrimination. There are also precise rules on which unions are entitled to negotiate (see section: Who negotiates and when?).
In fact, the vast majority of agreements are for single companies or organisations. A survey looking at the situation in 2014 found that, of 570 valid collective agreements, only 16 were at industry level. Of these nine were in the private sector, covering: construction, catering, travel agencies, wood and paper, seafarers (two agreements), private health care, road maintenance and de-mining. This leaves many important industries, including food, agriculture, chemicals, telecommunications and finance, with only company-level agreements.
The seven public sector agreements cover civil servants in central government, public employees more generally, as well as separate agreements for health workers, those working in education (separate agreements for primary and secondary schools), employees of social welfare institutions and those working in cultural bodies.
Industry level agreements can be extended beyond the signatory parties to all employers and employees in the industry, if the minister decides to do so. This can only be done, however, if all the signatories request it, if the unions and employers’ associations signing the agreement are those which represent or employ the largest number in the industry, and if an assessment by the tripartite economic and social council indicates that there is a public interest in extending the agreement. A number of industry agreements have been extended in this way, including those for construction and catering.
Company level agreements are typically local. The survey of the situation in 2014, referred to above, found that of the 570 valid collective agreements, only 139 (24%) covered employees in more than one county, while the remaining 431 only applied in a single county.
In addition to collective bargaining between the employers and unions, there is also a tripartite economic and social council, the GSV, composed of an equal number of members from unions, employers and the government. Initially set up in 1994, the GSV’s role is set out in the 2014 Labour Act, and it includes monitoring the effects of economic and social policy and making proposals to the government, employers and unions on a “coordinated price and salary policy”, as well as commenting on draft legislation in the area of social and labour policy. It also has a role in identifying mediators for dispute resolution.
There are five sub-committees of the GSV, covering wage policy, taxes and living standards, social policy, education and the labour market, collective bargaining and employment rights and sustainable development. There are also 21 local economic and social councils at county level. The work of the GSV, at both national and local level, is supported by a department for social partnership within the Ministry of Labour and Pensions.
However, the long-term future of the GSV is uncertain as in May 2019 the three union confederations participating in tripartite discussions withdrew from the GSV. They argued that trust between the unions and the government had broken down, particularly in relation to an increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67 and the unions’ campaign against this.
In general, tripartite consultations have played an important role in developing social and employment policy in Croatia, including the industrial relations structure, although there have certainly been tensions, particularly since the economic and financial crisis. However, in recent years, it has not led to any formal social pacts.
As well as the tripartite economic and social council, there are also bipartite social councils between the employers and unions in a number of industries, including railways, tourism, food and construction.
Who negotiates and when?
For the employers, negotiations are conducted either by an individual employer, for company or organisation agreements, or by an employers’ association, for industry level agreements.
For the employees, the two sets of legislation on representativeness of unions, passed in 2012 and 2014, introduced detailed provisions covering which unions are entitled to reach collective agreements. These vary according to the number of unions involved and the extent to which they can reach agreement among themselves..
Where there is only one union present, either at workplace level (possible) or industry level (unlikely), that union is automatically considered to be representative – no further tests are applied. (In the three months following the introduction of the 2012 legislation, 250 unions were officially recorded as being in this situation.)
The position is different where there are several unions and they have not agreed a common position. In this case, only “representative” unions are able to negotiate and sign a deal. A union is only representative if its membership makes up at least 20% of the unionised employees to whom the agreement will apply, either in a single company/organisation or in an industry. The level of membership is determined by an external body, the same commission that also deals with the representativeness of unions at national level (see section on trade unions). This representative status lasts as long as the length of the collective agreement signed (see below).
The unions have 30 days to agree the composition of this committee, but, if they fail to do so, each representative union has a right to have one representative. The bargaining committee itself draws up its own rules of procedure and decision-making processes. Unions that are not representative cannot be part of the bargaining committee. However, they have a right to present their views during the course of the negotiations.
At the end of the process the collective agreement is only valid if it is signed by representative unions representing more than 50% of all of the unionised employees.
Collective agreements can be either for a set period of time – up to five years – or for an indefinite period. The 2014 study, referred to above, shows that more than half of all agreements – 332 out of 570 (58%) – were indefinite, although with the possibility of being updated through annexes or additions. Among agreements with a shorter period of validity, around half (44%) lasted for two years or less, with 17% lasting three years and 24% lasting four.
The subject of the negotiations
Collective agreements can cover a very wide range of topics. There is no specific catalogue of issues, although they frequently cover methods for calculating a wide range of pay additions, such as bonuses or special supplements.
Croatia has a national minimum wage, and in March 2013 new legislation was passed, changing the basis on which it was uprated. While previously (since 2008) it had been automatically increased in line with a formula linked to average wages and average GDP growth in the previous year, it is now uprated using a more complex formula. This is based on the risk-of-poverty threshold for a single household, average household size, the proportion of the population who are economically active and the change in consumer prices. The increase for each year is decided by the government on the basis of a proposal from the minister of labour, after consulting employers and unions. It cannot be lower than the previous year’s figure.
 Obilježja kolektivnog pregovaranja u Republici Hrvatskoj: usporedba javnog sektora i gospodarstva, by Dragan Bagić, 2016, quoted in Industrial relations in Croatia and impacts of digitalisation on the labour market, by Višnja Samardžija, Hrvoje Butković and Ivana Skazlić, IMRO, 2017.
 Obilježja sustava kolektivnog pregovaranja u Republici Hrvatskoj: što znamo, a što tek trebamo doznati?, by Dragan Bagić http://www.sssh.hr/upload_data/site_files/obiljezja-sustava-kolektivnog-pregovaranja-u-republici-hrvatskoj_final.pdf (Accessed 06.12.2018)
 See Zakon o kriterijima za sudjelovanje u tripartitnim tijelima i reprezentativnosti za kolektivno pregovaranje, NN 82/12 and Konačni prijedlog zakona o reprezentativnosti udruga poslodavaca i sindikata (Final Bill on the representativeness of employuers associations and trade unions) June 2014
 Obilježja sustava kolektivnog pregovaranja u Republici Hrvatskoj: što znamo, a što tek trebamo doznati?, by Dragan Bagić http://www.sssh.hr/upload_data/site_files/obiljezja-sustava-kolektivnog-pregovaranja-u-republici-hrvatskoj_final.pdf (Accessed 06.12.2018)
Workplace representation in Croatia is provided both through trade unions and works councils, although if no works council has been set up the union representative can take on almost all its duties and responsibilities. This happens reasonably frequently.
Unions are free to operate at the workplace and, according to the Labour Act, they have “the right to promote the rights and interests of trade union members in respect of their relations with the employer”. This can be done either through external union officials or through union representatives who are also employees of the organisation. In practice, as only 10 individuals are required to set up a union and because there are a large number of unions, in many cases union representation will be through a union or unions, all of whose members work for the same employer. In other cases the union members will belong to a larger union with members spread across several employers, or even the whole country.
In companies and other organisations with at least 20 employees (bodies which are part of the state administration are an exception), the Labour Act states that the employees have the right to be represented through a works council. Its role is that it “protects and promotes the interests of employees”. In practice, unions, which have the right to nominate candidates, are key in initiating the process of setting up a works council.
If no works council has been set up, its rights and duties (other than the choice of an individual to be a representative at board level – see below) are taken on by a union representative working at the company. If there are several unions present in the workplace and they cannot reach agreement as to which union representative should exercise these rights, the choice is made through an election, following the same rules as apply for the election of works council members (see below).
There are no national official statistics on the proportion of workplaces that have either union representation and/or works councils. However, a survey of 530 companies with more than 20 employees, published in 2010, found that 45% had works councils. Looking at trends, at least one of the unions argues that workplace representation is moving away from works councils towards the situation where works council rights are exercised by a union representative. A study in 2007 found that “taking over the functions of works council by a trade union is common”.
There are also employee safety representatives who must be elected once there are 20 employees, or even fewer if there are significant health and safety risks.
Figures from Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey show that 23% of establishments with at least 10 employees have some form of official employee representation, which may be either a union or a works council. This is below the EU28 average of 32%. As elsewhere in Europe, larger organisations are much more likely to have such a structure than smaller ones. Among establishments with more than 250 employees, 86% have some form of employee representation.
Numbers and structure
The numbers and structure of the trade union body at the workplace are a matter for the rules of the trade union and, as already noted, there may be more than one union present.
However, the law places a limit on the number of trade union representatives in the workforce who have protection against dismissal (see section on protection). Even in the smallest workplaces at least one union representative always has protection and the number rises as the workplace increases in size. The number of union representatives protected is exactly the same as the number of works council members elected (see below). The employer should be informed about the appointment of the union representative or representatives, whether they are part of the workforce or external union officials.
The size of the works council, which is a purely employee body, is set out in the Labour Act, and it increases with the number employed, as follows:
Number of employees
Number of works council members
20 to 75
76 to 250
251 to 500
501 to 750
751 to 1,000
There are then an additional two members for every further 1,000 employees. A works council can be established either at the level of an individual organisational unit (a workplace) or by bringing together several organisational units.
The Labour Act does not define in detail which workers count towards these thresholds, stating only, in Article 145, that “all workers of an employer shall have the right to elect and be elected”. The exceptions are members of management and supervisory bodies (other than workers’ representatives) and their immediate family members, as well as the chief executive or other similar senior figure.
Members of trade unions, with members in the company or organisation concerned, may be present at works council meetings, but they have no right to participate in taking decisions. The works council should, however, inform employees and the union about its work and receive their initiatives; it should also cooperate with all the unions present in the workplace.
The works council sets its own rules of procedure, including how often it meets. However, the employer should provide the works council with information at least every three months (see below).
Task and rights
Unions in the workplace have the right to “promote the rights and interests of trade union members”. The employer is required by law to make it possible for trade union representatives to exercise their rights and to provide them with the information necessary to exercise them.
In practice, the unions’ main area of activity at the workplace is collective bargaining, unless, as is possible, there is no works council and the union has taken on its role.
The basic role of the works council, according to the Labour Act, is that it “protects and promotes the interests of the employees … by providing advice, participating in decision making and negotiating with the employer … about the issues which are important for the employees”. The works council should not become involved in industrial action.
The employer must inform the works council at least every three months about:
- the situation of the business and work organisation;
- the expected development of the business and the effects of this on the employees;
- trends and changes in pay;
- the extent and reasons for overtime working;
- the number and category of employees, the structure of employment and overall employment policy;
- health and safety and measures taken to improve working conditions; and
- other issues of importance for the economic and social position of employees.
The employer must consult with the works council before taking decisions which will have a significant impact on employees. These include decisions on:
- the adoption of “employment rules” which regulate issues such as pay, work organisation and issues such as sexual harassment, except where these issues are already covered by a collective agreement. Employee rules are obligatory in all companies or organisations with more than 20 employees;
- the development of employment policy, including relocation and dismissals;
- the impact of the transfer of employment to a new employer;
- measures linked to the protection of health and safety at work;
- the introduction of new technology and changes in work organisation and methods;
- annual leave plans;
- working hours schedules;
- night work;
- payments for employees’ inventions and suggestions; and
- redundancy social plans.
The information in respect of these issues must be provided to the works council “in due time” and in such a way as to allow the works council to make comments which have a “material impact on decision-making”. The works council must provide its reasoned response to the employer within eight days.
The works council can also reach agreements with the employer on these and other matters, which are then legally binding. However, these agreements cannot cover pay, working time or other issues normally covered by collective agreements, unless this is specifically permitted by the signatories of the collective agreement.
There are special rules relating to dismissals where, because of the behaviour of the employee, the employer considers it justified to dismiss the employee without complying with the agreed notice period.
In such cases, where the employer is dismissing the employee with what is known as “extraordinary notice”, the works council has a right to challenge the employer’s decision within five days. Provided the individual employee has also begun a legal action, he or she must be reinstated until the court has reached a conclusion on the merits of the case. Employers may ask the court to release them from this obligation, if they consider that it is clearly unjustified, but they must pay the employee wage compensation until the case is settled.
There are also some decisions which can only be taken with the agreement of the works council, although on all the topics covered by this obligation, a decision by the court can replace the works council’s agreement. The employer must ask the court to take a decision within 15 days of the works council’s refusal to give its consent, and the court must reach a verdict within 30 days of receiving the request.
The decisions in this category are:
- the dismissal of works council members or candidates, as well as the dismissal of the employee representative on the supervisory board (see section on board level representation);
- the dismissal of disabled workers;
- the dismissal of workers aged over 60;
- the inclusion of pregnant employees in redundancy schemes;
- collecting data about employees and sending it to a third party; and
- the appointment of an individual controlling the use of data and its delivery to third parties.
The rights of the works council can also be extended through an agreement between the works council and the employer or by a collective agreement signed with the union or unions.
Election and term of office
Union representatives are chosen in line with the rules of the union concerned.
Works council members are elected by the employees in a ballot, which is supervised by an electoral committee of at least three members, appointed by the bodies – unions or groups of employees – who have nominated candidates. Candidates may be nominated, either by unions who have members at the workplace, or by a group of employees representing at least 20% (10% before 2014) of the workforce.
There is no service requirement to be a candidate, and almost all employees may stand for office. The exceptions are: members of management and supervisory bodies (other than workers’ representatives) and their immediate family members, as well as the chief executive or other similar senior figure. Elections are not valid unless at least one third of the employees have voted.
Works councils are elected every four years (three years before 2014) and the elections generally take place in March.
Protection against dismissal
In the legislation, both union representatives and works council members enjoy protection against dismissal or unfavourable treatment.
For trade unionists, there is a general prohibition of dismissal or unfavourable treatment by the employer on the grounds of trade union membership or participation in trade union activities, whether in work or outside it.
In addition, trade union representatives who are employed in the organisation may not be dismissed or placed in a less favourable position in other ways, unless the union agrees to this, or, where the union does not agree, a court permits it. This protection applies both during their period of office and for six months afterwards. However, the number of trade union representatives protected in this way is limited. In all workplaces at least one trade union representative benefits from this protection, and the number goes up with the size of the workforce in line with the number of works council members elected – three in workplaces with 76 to 250 employees, five where there are 251 to 500 employees, and so on (see section on numbers and structure).
On works councils, the legislation states that the employer “must neither favour nor disfavour members of the works council”. In addition, as with union representatives, works council members or candidates for the works council can only be dismissed with the agreement of the works council, or, where this is refused, following a decision of the court.
Time off and other resources
There are no specific rights to paid time off for union representatives in the workplace, unless they are taking on the role of the works council, where the works council rights apply. Where this is not the case, the law only states that the employer must make it possible for union representatives to exercise their right to protect and promote the interests of trade union members in the workplace in a “timely” and “effective” way.
The time off and other rights of works council members in contrast are set out in the Labour Act. This states that each member of the works council has a right to six hours paid time off a week, and this entitlement may be transferred between individual members. Where the total amount of time off permits it, the president or another member of the works council may be freed entirely from normal duties in order to carry out work council functions on a full-time basis. He or she has an explicit right to return to their previous work, or, if this no longer exists, another appropriate job at the end of their period of office.
The employer must also provide the works council with the necessary premises, personnel, resources and other working conditions and there is an overall requirement that the employer should cover “other costs incurred as a result of the works council’s activities” in accordance with the terms of the applicable legislation.
The working conditions of the works council are to be regulated in an agreement between the works council and the employer.
The works council may also make use of experts and, provided there is an agreement with the employer, the employer will pay.
The Labour Act states specifically that “the employer must permit members of the works council to undergo training necessary for work in the council”.
 See Implementacija pravne stečevine Europske unije i utjecaj na hrvatsko zakonodavstvo i praksu u području sudjelovanja radnika (The implementation of the acquis communautaire and the impact on the Croatian legislation and practice in the area of workers participation), by H Horak and K Dumančić, Roundtable: The Role of unions in modern society, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, November 2012
 See Industrijski odnosi u Hrvatskoj: društvena integracija ili tržišni sukob (Industrial relations in Croatia: social integration or market conflict) by Dragan Bagić, 2010 quoted in Annual Review on Labour Relations and Social Dialogue in South East Europe: Croatia 2012 by Ana Milićević Pezeli, 2013, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
 See Annual Review on Labour Relations and Social Dialogue in South East Europe: Croatia 2012 by Ana Milićević Pezeli, 2013, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
 Capacity building for social dialogue at sectoral and company level: Croatia, Željko Potočnjak and Viktor Gotovac, 2007, European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions
 Eurofound (2015), Third European Company Survey – Overview report: Workplace practices – Patterns, performance and well-being, Figures for Table 44
There is employee representation at board level in larger Croatian limited companies and all Croatian public limited companies. However, this representation is limited to a single member representing employees.
Croatia has both public limited companies (d.d.) and limited companies (d.o.o.). Since 2008, public limited companies have been able to choose between a two tier corporate governance structure, with a supervisory and a management board, and a single tier structure, with just one board. However, whichever structure they choose, they must have an employee representative at board level – as a member of the supervisory board in a two tier structure or as a member of the board in a single tier structure.
Limited companies can also choose between a two tier and one tier structure. However, if any of certain conditions are met, they are required to have a two tier structure with a supervisory board. The conditions include having more than 200 employees, having a share capital above HRK 600,000 (about €80,000) and more than 50 shareholders, and operating in a number of specific industries. Under the 2014 Labour Act, limited companies with this two tier structure must also have an employee representative on the supervisory board.
Publicly owned companies must also have an employee representative at board level.
The single representative at board level is appointed and recalled by the works council. If there is no works council the employee representative is elected by the employees from among their number. In this area the possibility of the union taking on the rights and duties of the works council, which exists in other areas, does not exist.
The term of office of the employee representative on the board is the same as that for other board members. The legislation also specifically states that the employee representative has the same legal position as other board members.
Croatian representatives on bodies related to European Works Councils and the European Company are in most cases elected by all Croatian employees in the companies involved. The choice of an employee representative at board level in a European Company is the exception, as he or she is chosen by the works council of the European Company, in line with national practice for employee board-level representation in Croatian companies.
European Works Councils
Croatian members of the special negotiating body (SNB) for an EWC are elected by the employees of the company involved in a secret ballot. The candidates can be proposed either by trade unions with members in the company concerned, or by a group of at least 10% of the employees. The primary legislation does not specify whether or not SNB members must be employees of the company. However, it states that the government will issue detailed regulations covering the election of employee representatives from Croatia.
The arrangements are exactly the same for Croatian members of an EWC set up under the fallback procedure in the annex to the directive.
Croatian members of the special negotiating body (SNB) for a European Company are elected by the employees of the company involved in a secret ballot. The candidates can be proposed either by trade unions with members in the company concerned, or by a group of at least 10% of the employees. The primary legislation does not specify whether or not SNB members must be employees of the company. However, it states that the government will issue detailed regulations covering the election of employee representatives from Croatia.
The arrangements are exactly the same for Croatian members of the SE representative body, known in the Croatian legislation as the works council of a European company, set up under the fallback procedure in the annex to the directive.
Where an employee representative from Croatia is to be appointed at board level in a European Company set up under the fall back provisions of the directive, he or she should be appointed or elected by the works council of the European Company. This is in line with national practice for choosing employee representatives on the boards of Croatian companies. They are appointed, and can be recalled, by the national works council.
Further information on the national SE legislation can be found here.
Health and safety representation in Croatia is provided primarily through safety representatives, elected by the whole workforce. In slightly larger organisations, there is also a joint safety committee.
Basic approach at workplace level
The employer is responsible for the organisation and implementation of health and safety measures in all areas of work. Collective agreements can be part of the basis of regulation for health and safety, alongside legislation and regulations.
Employee health and safety bodies
Employee representatives for safety at work (povjerenici radnika za zaštitu na radu) are the main way in which employees’ health and safety interests are represented. In most medium-sized and larger organisations (more than 50 employees) a joint safety committee (odbor za zaštitu na radu) must be set up and where there are more than 250 employees with workplaces in several separate locations a central safety committee (središnji odbor za zaštitu na radu ) must also be established. Trade unions can also appoint safety representatives if this is provided for in the collective agreement.(In practice there are few collective agreements which cover health and safety.)
Numbers and structure
In most cases, the number of employee safety representatives to be appointed is as follows:
Number of employees
Number of employee safety representatives
20 to 75
76 to 250
251 to 500
501 to 750
751 to 1,000
There are then an additional two safety representatives for every further 1,000 employees. (As the legislation makes clear, this is exactly the same as the number of works council members who should be elected in similar sized workplaces.)
In addition, where there are particular risks to health and safety, an employee safety representative must be appointed, even if there are fewer than 20 employees. The number of any trade union representatives to be appointed depends on the collective agreement.
If there are several employee safety representatives, they should appoint one of their number as a coordinator.
In most cases where an employer has more than 50 employees a safety committee must be set up. (This is not the case where the minister has agreed that a risk assessment has shown that there are no significant health and safety risks.) The safety committee consists of the employer, or the employer’s agent, the health and safety specialist employed by the organisation, the occupational physician –where there is one, and either the employee safety representatives or the coordinator of the employee safety representatives. The safety committee is chaired by the employer, or the employer’s agent. The labour inspector must also be told when the meetings of the committee are happening and has a right to attend, if he or she considers it appropriate.
There are no specific rules for the central safety committee, which must be established in organisations with more than 250 employees operating over several locations.
Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 55% of workplaces in Croatia had health and safety representatives and 15% had a health and safety committee. These are both below the EU-28 averages, which are 58% for health and safety representatives and 21% for health and safety committees. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.) 
Tasks and rights
There is a general obligation on the employer to ensure that there are procedures in place, which allow workers and their representatives to be consulted on all matters related to health and safety so that they can influence decisions relating to health and safety issues and play a part in making these decisions.
The main task of the employee safety representative is to act in the interests of the employees in the area of health and safety and monitor the implementation of the regulations and other health and safety measures covering the workplace they represent. Where there are trade union safety representatives, they have the same tasks and rights as other employee safety representatives.
Employee safety representatives have the right to:
- submit proposals relating to health and safety decisions;
- require the employer to take appropriate measures to reduce and eliminate sources of danger;
- complain to the appropriate authorities where they consider that the employer’s measures have been inadequate;
- participate in plans to improve working conditions, in the introduction of new technologies and materials, and in encouraging the employer to implement health and safety regulations;
- be informed about changes that affect workers’ health and safety;
- to be informed in writing about the state of occupational health and safety and plans for the future every six months or every three months, where there is a works council or a union representative with the powers of a works council;
- access and use the documentation relating to health and safety;
- receive workers’ health and safety complaints;
- inform the labour inspectorate of their observations, attend inspections and respond to the inspection findings; and
- call in the labour inspectorate where there is a threat to the life or health of employees and the employer has failed to do so.
Employee safety representatives should also:
- train and extend their health and safety knowledge; encourage other employees to work safely through their own conduct;
- inform workers on the health and safety measures the employer has taken; and
- inform the works council at least every three months of their own activities.
In their work they should have access to all the documents and regulations they need.
Where there is a safety committee, this is the body in which employee representatives are involved in influencing and making decisions relating to health and safety.
The safety committee also plans and supervises the implementation of health and safety rules and deals with information and training relating to health and safety. The safety commitee plans and implements policies to prevent accidents and occupational disease and to encourage continuous improvement in health and safety.
Employee safety representatives and the works council are required to promote the safety committee’s work.
Frequency and terms of meetings
The safety committee should meet at least every three months and within 48 hours of any death or injury. If the employer fails to call a meeting within 48 hours of a death or injury, the employee safety representatives have the right to do so. The same applies if the employer twice fails to call a normal meeting within three months of the last meeting.
Election and term of office
In most cases employee safety representatives are elected using the same rules at those that apply to works council elections. This means that they are chosen by the employees in a ballot, which is supervised by an electoral committee of at least three members, appointed by the bodies – unions or groups of employers – who have nominated candidates. Candidates may be nominated, either by unions who have members at the workplace, or by a group of employees representing at least 10% of the workforce. All employees may stand for office; there is no service requirement. Elections are not valid unless at least one third of the employees have voted.
In exceptional cases, where employee safety representatives are present in organisations with 20 or fewer employees, the safety representatives are elected at a meeting of all employees.
The term of office is four years.
Resources, time off and training
Employee safety representatives should be given the resources they need to undertake their tasks. They are entitled to three paid hours a week to carry out their duties, although can be improved through a collective agreement.
Training of employee health and safety representatives is one of the specified health and safety tasks which are the responsibility of the employer. The training should take place during working hours and at the employer’s expense.
Protection against dismissal
During their period of office the employer must not dismiss, transfer or place the employee safety representatives at a disadvantage in some other way, unless this has been authorised by the works council.
Other elements of workplace health and safety
Employers must undertake the tasks necessary to safeguard the health and safety of their employees. In organisations with fewer than 50 employees this can be done by the employer, provided that he or she meets the appropriate requirements, but in organisations with 50 or more employees, health and safety tasks must, in most cases, be undertaken by an employee who is a health and safety specialist (potentially by more than one in organisations with 250 or more employees). Only if there are objective reasons why these health and safety tasks cannot be undertaken within the organisation is it permissible for them to be undertaken by external health and safety specialists.
Where health surveillance is necessary, this is provided through external occupational medical services.
The Ministry of Labour and the Pension System (Ministarstvo rada i mirovinskoga sustava) is responsible for workplace health and safety, and the Labour Inspectorate (Inspektorat rada) is responsible for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws.
Unions and employers are able to influence policy on health and safety through their participation in the National Council for Work Safety (Nacionalno vijeće za zaštitu na radu), which has seven members, including two each from the unions and the employers.
The new health and safety legislation, introduced in 2014, placed increased emphasis on psychosocial risks. It stated that the employer should implement measures to prevent stress and in particular should consider: work organisation, including workload and the degree of workers’ autonomy; working conditions, including exposure to violence; communication on future changes; and subjective feelings relating to social pressures and the level of support.
Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2014
Zakon o Zaštiti na Radu, 2014
 See National safety and health profile in the Republic of Croatia, by Fran Marovic, 2010, ILO
 Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2016
 For more information on the national context see OSH system at national level – Croatia by Réka Zayzon and Klaus Kuhl, , OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_National_Level_-_Croatia
Workers’ financial participation has a long tradition in the former Yugoslavia. In Croatia today, however, the incidence of financial participation schemes is below average. By European comparison Croatia is in the lower third with regard to both employee share ownership and profit-sharing schemes.
In the wake of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia the up until then common practice of workers’ participation in the form of cooperatives increasingly fell out of favour in Croatia. During the first phase of privatisation from 1991 to 1995 workers were encouraged to buy up to 50% of the shares in the company they worked for at a discount and with the option of paying by instalments. In 1995 small shareholders held around 20% of the shares of companies that had been privatised in the first phase. In the course of further privatisation phases at the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s the possibility to buy company shares at a discount was restricted and the proportion of workers with shares in the company they worked for fell.
In 2006 there was a political debate on whether promotion of employee share ownership schemes should be included in the new privatisation law 2007.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Mrak, M. K., Sokolic, D. and Vretenar, N. (2013): ESOPs in Croatia – Some Recent Developments and Issues, University of Rijeka, Faculty of Economics.
The incidence of profit-sharing and employee share ownership schemes in Croatia is below average by European comparison and particularly dependent on size of company. Cooperatives are still relatively unimportant in the Croatian economy.
The findings of the fifth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS 2010), based on a Europe-wide questionnaire of employees, show that the incidence of profit-sharing schemes in Croatia is 5.8% and that of employee share ownership schemes is 1.8%.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2012): Fifth European Working Conditions Survey, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
Neither employee share ownership nor profit-sharing schemes are promoted by financial incentives in Croatia. The privatisation laws were important for the development of employee share ownership schemes in Croatia.
In the course of the transformation and privatisation process in Croatia from the 1990s onwards some employees have participated in their companies financially. During the first privatisation phase employees of a company had the opportunity to buy shares in it on favourable terms. The discount was at least 20% with 1 percentage point added for every year of preceding employment at the same company. The highest possible discount was 60%, which was deducted from the market price. If the shares were paid for in cash there was an additional discount of 10% and payment could be extended up to five years. Despite these favourable conditions many employees bought no shares in their company or only that portion available to them at a discount. One reason for this was the poor economic shape of many Croatian companies at this time. Promotion of workers’ financial participation was gradually phased out and the second law on privatisation of 1996 contained no favourable conditions for employees. After the end of the privatisation phase the incidence of employee share ownership schemes in Croatia fell further and at present is at a low level by European comparison.
With regard to profit-sharing schemes there are no specific legal regulations in Croatia and no (tax) incentives for companies to promote such schemes or for employees to demand them.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Brnabić, R et al. (2006): Financial Participation of Employees in Croatia. PEPPER III, Extended Country Report. Lowitzsch, J., Hashi, I. and Woodward, R. (2009): The PEPPER IV Report: Benchmarking of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union. Country Profile ‘Croatia’.
With the demise of the former Yugoslavia the special role of a single large trade union under the control of the Communist Party also ended. Today it is usual at companies in Croatia that employees are represented by a number of trade unions. These trade unions show little interest in promoting or calling for financial participation schemes.
There are four large trade union federations in Croatia today and a multitude of smaller associations and trade unions. The proportion of employees who are active trade union members is between 20% and 50%. In the course of privatisation the trade unions did not put much emphasis on staking a claim for workers’ financial participation in companies. There are no collective agreements that provide for profit-sharing or employee share ownership schemes. Only in the course of the third privatisation phase in the early 2000s did some trade unions and trade union leaders back employee share ownership schemes as an option for the privatisation of state property. Financial participation schemes are neither rejected nor advocated by the large trade unions today1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. Lowitzsch, J., Hashi, I. and Woodward, R. (2009): The PEPPER IV Report: Benchmarking of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union. Country Profile ‘Croatia’.
- Brnabić, R et.al. (2006): Financial Participation of Employees in Croatia. PEPPER III, Extended Country Report.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2012): Fifth European Working Conditions Survey, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2010): European Company Survey 2009. Overview. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- Mrak, M. K., Sokolic, D. and Vretenar, N. (2013): ESOPs in Croatia – Some Recent Developments and Issues, University of Rijeka, Faculty of Economics.
- Lowitzsch, J., Hashi, I. and Woodward, R. (2009): The PEPPER IV Report: Benchmarking of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union. Country Profile ‘Croatia’.
- Mygind, N. (2012): Trends in employee ownership in Eastern Europe, in: The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23:8, 1611-1642.