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Board-level Representation

There are legal provisions giving Portuguese employees the right to elect representatives on the governing bodies of state-owned companies and other public bodies. However, the way that these provisions have been implemented means that they only have a consultative role. There is no employee board level representation in private companies.



In state-owned companies the 1976 constitution gives works councils the right to “promote the election of workers’ representatives in the governing bodies of companies belonging to the state and other public bodies”. Legislation in 1979 (Lei n.º 46/79) on works councils give works councils the right to elect representatives on to company bodies and this was later incorporated into the labour code. However, the legislation states that the number of employees to be elected, as well as the body on which they sit, are to be determined by the company’s own rules.



In practice, it appears that relatively few state-owned Portuguese companies have implemented these provisions. Research in 2011 found only 49 state-owned companies with employee representatives on company bodies and in every case they were limited to a single individual on a consultative board “conselho consultivo”, whose duties are advisory.1 Of these companies, 47 were in the health sector which is covered by separate legislation.



Separate legislation, passed in 1976 and amended in 1984, which gave employees the right to elect one member of the board of directors in state-owned companies, was repealed in 1999.2 The justification for the repeal at the time was in part that the number of state-owned companies had been greatly reduced and subsequent privatisations have further cut the number of companies owned by the state.



In the private sector, there is no effective legislation giving employees the right to be represented at board level. Legislation permits employee representation to be agreed between employers and unions, but in practice this does not happen.

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.