Roles of the health and safety representative and equal opportunities officer

Last update 17.12.2018

Social elections take place every 5 years. At this time, the employees vote to elect the members of the staff delegation in their business.

The people who are elected have several tasks as well as a number of rights to successfully perform their duties.

Who is concerned

The members of the staff delegation and the employer are subject to several obligations.

How to proceed

Roles of the staff delegation

The staff delegation has several roles within the business.

General roles

The overarching role of the staff delegation is to safeguard and defend employees' interests with regard to working conditions, job security and employment status.

Thus, it acts as a mediator between the employees and employer.

In particular, it is the responsibility of the staff delegation to:

  • present the employer with any and all claims, both individual and collective;
  • ensure proper enforcement of laws, regulations and collective agreements and strict enforcement of equal treatment of the business's employees;
  • offer recommendations on the preparation or modification of the business's internal regulations;
  • prevent and settle individual or collective disputes between the employer and employees;
  • if disputes cannot be resolved, refer the case to the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines (Inspection du travail et des mines – ITM);
  • to ensure equal opportunities in terms of access to employment, professional development training, pay and working conditions for employees.

The business manager is required to share with the staff delegation the information it needs to perform its duties and that is likely to enhance the members' understanding of how the business operates and its activity (including recent and likely changes in its business activities, and financial position).

In businesses with more than 150 employees, information is disseminated monthly or at the delegation's request. For other businesses, it is disseminated at the 3 meetings the delegation is required to hold every year with the business's management.

If the staff delegation believes that the information provided is not sufficient, it may request additional information.

The members of the staff delegation are entitled to contact any and all employees. In particular, they may circulate freely throughout the business or the worksites and contact the employees, after so notifying the employer.

Information and consultation on the business activity

The role of the staff delegation is to:

  • offer its recommendations:
    • and submit proposals to improve working conditions, employment conditions and employee welfare;
    • and to submit proposals for the drafting or modification of the business's internal regulations. The employer is required to take a decision on proposed modifications within 2 months;
    • on all questions concerning working hours;
    • on the establishment or discontinuation of an additional pension scheme;
  • participate:
    • in training apprentices (if the business has more than 100 employees) and in initiatives to support young people;
    • in the implementation of policies on anti-harassment and the prevention of violence in the workplace;
  • in the establishment and implementation of initial and continuing vocational training schemes and apprenticeships, and so forth.

Limited participation in the business's decision-making process

In businesses with more than 150 employees, during the year preceding the first of the month when elections are called, the staff delegation and employer jointly take decisions that apply to:

  • the introduction or application of technical systems to monitor staff's conduct and performance in the workplace;
  • the introduction or modification of measures concerning staff health and safety, and prevention of occupational illnesses;
  • the establishment or modification of general criteria:
    • regarding staff selection in case of hiring, promotion, dismissal, etc.;
    • for employee assessment, etc.

Accordingly, a meeting must be held at least once per quarter between the employer and the staff delegation in order to discuss these topics and reach a consensus. The employer is represented at this meeting by the business manager or deputy manager and, if they wish, by any other people of their choice.

The number of delegates of the business may not exceed the number of elected staff delegates.

The agenda is set by mutual agreement between the business manager and the president of the delegation. It must be sent to the members of the staff delegation at least 5 days before the meeting.

If no agreement is reached, the staff delegation gives power to the board to conduct negotiations and take a decision with the employer.

Meetings are held behind closed doors during working hours in a location provided by the employer, with the necessary supplies and equipment.

Posting of delegation messages

The staff delegation may post its messages, reports and assessments on the business's premises in different formats accessible to the staff, including electronically.

The elected delegates are free to post union messages on the business premises on media designated for this purpose if these media appear on a list submitted by:

  • a union that has national or sector-specific representation;
  • an employee union that represents the absolute majority of the members of the delegation.

When a message is posted, a copy of it is forwarded to the business manager.

These same delegates may also freely disseminate union publications and leaflets to the employees:

  • on the business's premises; and
  • in locations determined through mutual agreement with the employer.

Important decisions on technical, economic and financial matters

The business manager must:

  • inform and consult the staff delegation before taking an important decision regarding:
    • the construction, transformation or extension of production or management facilities;
    • the introduction, improvement, renewal or transformation of equipment;
    • the introduction, improvement, renewal or transformation of working methods and manufacturing processes, with the exception of manufacturing secrets;
      The manager must also inform the delegation about the impact of such measures on the working conditions and environment;
  • inform and consult the delegation at least once per year on current and projected manpower needs in the business, and particularly on vocational training and retraining measures;
  • inform and consult the delegation, in advance where possible, on any economic and financial decisions that may have repercussions on the business structure or employment level, such as:
    • production and sales volume;
    • possible plans to discontinue or transfer all or part of the business;
    • projects concerning the restriction or extension of business activities, etc.

The employer may, however, depart from this principle of prior information and consultation if doing so may hinder the management of the business or compromise a business operation. In this case, the business manager must give the staff delegation all the necessary information and explanations on the decision made within 3 days;

  • inform the delegation in writing, at least twice per year, about the business's economic and financial development. The business manager sends a comprehensive report on the business activity, annual turnover, overall production results and operating income, change in salary structures and wage bills, etc.

If the company is established as a joint stock company, non-profit association, cooperative association or foundation, the management must share with the staff delegation, before presenting it to the annual meeting of shareholders or decision-making body, the profit and loss account, the annual balance sheet, the statutory auditors' report and any other document submitted to the decision-making bodies.


Rights of the staff delegation and its members

Exercise of duties

The business manager must allow the members of the delegation the time needed to perform their duties and pay that time as ordinary working time; this does not affect the manager's obligation to grant delegates an allotment of paid hours (time credit) proportionate to the headcount.

The time credits are paid and distributed proportionately to the votes received, among all the lists having won at least 20% of the seats in the election.

Headcount of less than 150 employees

The manager grants the staff delegation a total time credit proportionate to the headcount of employees represented. The basis of the calculation is 40 hours per week for 500 employees.

Example:

A business with a total of 100 employees.

The total time credit granted to the staff delegation is calculated as follows: 100 x 40/500 = 8 hours total.

These 8 hours are granted to the staff delegation as a whole. These hours are then distributed between staff delegates in proportion to the votes for each list which received at least 20% of the seats in the election.

Headcount between 150 and 249 employees

The business manager grants the staff delegation a total time credit proportionate to the headcount on the basis of 40 hours credit per week for every 250 employees.

Example:

A business with a total of 200 employees.

The total time credit granted to the staff delegation is calculated as follows: 200 x 40/250 = 32 hours total.

These 32 hours are granted to the staff delegation as a whole. These hours are then distributed between staff delegates in proportion to the votes for each list which received at least 20% of the votes in the election.

Headcount of at least 250 employees

The business manager must grant a permanent work exemption to a number of delegates that is set based on the size of the business:

Number of staff
Number of full-time staff delegates:
250-500
1
501-1,000
2
1,001-2,000
3
2,001-3,500
4

 

For businesses whose headcount is greater than 3,500 employees, one additional delegate is appointed for every 1,500 employees.

Example:

A business with a total of 11,000 employees.

Number of full-time staff delegates:
4 full-time delegates (because the number of staff is higher than 3,500) + 5 delegates: (11,000-3,500) / 1,500 = 5

Total = 9 staff delegates will be released from work in order to carry out their tasks as staff delegates on a full-time basis.

In principle, these delegates are appointed by the members of the staff delegation.
If the business's headcount exceeds 1,000 employees, the trade unions each appoint one delegate if the trade unions:

  • have national representation; and
  • are represented in the business.

 

Meetings of the staff delegation

The staff delegation may meet once per month during working hours. The delegation must notify the management of its meeting at least 5 working days beforehand unless a shorter notice period is agreed upon.

In addition, it is obligated to meet at least 6 times per year, including 3 times with the business management.

Time spent in meetings is considered as working time.

The staff delegation may also meet in plenary session with the business's employees once per year. The meeting is conducted behind closed doors and the business manager or their delegate may be invited.

Consultation

The staff delegation may schedule consulting hours for the business's employees.

In businesses with more than 250 employees, these consultations are conducted by the exempted delegate(s):

  • during working hours;
  • during times set by the delegation;
  • and communicated to the business manger.

In businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the delegation may schedule consulting hours during or outside of working hours. If the consulting hours are held during working hours, the delegation and the business manager must agree to the schedule and means of organisation of the consulting hours. The consulting hours are attributed to the delegation's time credit.

Special protection of members of the staff delegation

The regular or substitute members of the delegation may not:

  • have an essential term in their contract amended;
  • be dismissed, even for serious misconduct, during their term of office, or during the first 6 months following the expiry or termination of their term of office.

If the employer nonetheless dismisses the delegate or amends an essential clause in their contract, the delegate may lodge a summary appeal before the president of the Labour Tribunal to request that the dismissal or change to the employment contract be nullified.

Candidates to a staff delegate position are also protected for 3 months after they declare their candidacy.

However, employers have the option to suspend the delegate with immediate effect, citing serious misconduct on the delegate's part.

Maintenance of salary level

The business manager must allow the members of the delegation the time needed to perform their duties and pay that time as ordinary working time; this does not affect the manager's obligation to grant delegates a time credit proportionate to the headcount.

The members of the staff delegation are also entitled to leave their workstation to perform their duties without losing any pay if:

  • they have notified the manager of this in advance; and
  • their absence does not interfere with the department's proper operation.

Training leave

Training leave refers to the time the employer must make available to staff delegates so they can participate, during working hours, in training sessions organised by trade unions or special institutions, to advance their economic, labour and technical knowledge.

Delegates do not lose pay during their training leave.

The time for training leave for the members of the staff delegation is set as follows:

  • if the business has between 15 and 49 employees, all regular members are entitled to one work week of training leave during their term. The wage costs for training leave are covered by the State;
  • if the business has between 50 and 150 employees, all regular members are entitled to 2 work weeks of training leave during their term. The wage costs for one week of training leave are covered by the State;
  • if the business has more than 150 employees, all members are entitled to one work week of training leave per year of the term.

First-time delegates are entitled to an additional 16 hours of training leave during the first year of their term.

Substitute delegates are entitled to half the training hours to which regular delegates are entitled.

The training leave must be granted by the business manager to delegates who wish to participate in approved training sessions. Every year, a list of training sessions is drawn up through mutual agreement between the professional organisations of employers and the trade unions with the greatest national representation.

The duration of training leave cannot be deducted from annual paid leave: it is treated as a period of ordinary work.

Employer's obligations

The employer has obligations towards the staff delegation and staff delegates. In particular, they must:

  • share with the staff delegation:
    • all the information it needs to properly perform its duties;
    • if the business has fewer than 150 employees in the year preceding the first of the month when elections are called: at least once per year, share the economic and financial development and recent and future business activities, in writing. This is a comprehensive report on the business activity, annual turnover, change in salary structures and wage bills, etc.;
  • inform and consult the staff delegation on:
    • decisions that may lead to significant changes in the organisation of work or in employment contracts, including collective dismissals, the upholding of rights in the event of a transfer of the business, or the use of temporary workers;
    • the management of social support measures implemented in the business for employees or their families. Employers are required to share a management report with the delegation at least once per year;
  • convey to the delegation and the health and safety delegate:
    • the health and safety risks, and protection/prevention measures and actions, that apply to the business in general and to particular workstations and positions;
    • the protective measures to be implemented and, where necessary, the protective gear to be used;
    • the change in absence rates.

This information (except that on absence rate) must also be passed to the employer of employees who are posted in the business. The employer must convey it to their own staff delegation;

  • inform and consult the staff delegation and equal opportunities officer on:
    • the status, structure and likely change in jobs within the business, particularly where jobs are threatened. In order to do this, the employer must share gender-based statistics on recruitment, promotions, transfers, dismissals, compensation and employee training, on a semi-annual basis;
    • the establishment of employment support and employment initiation contracts;
  • provide the staff delegation with equipped facilities for its meetings.

Obligations of the members of the staff delegation

The members of the staff delegation must abide by the business's internal regulations.

The staff delegates are bound by professional confidentiality:

  • for all issues relating to manufacturing procedures;
  • information that is deemed confidential by the manager, whether regarding the business's employees or third parties, unless these employees or third parties are also subject to a non-disclosure agreement.

Disputes between the staff delegation and the manager

Regarding technical, economic and financial matters

In the event of differences of opinion between the staff delegation and the manager, the board of directors, manager(s) or, for a joint stock company, the business manager (if they have not participated personally in the discussions), are notified.

The delegation is then notified of the outcome.

Regarding participation in the business activity

When there is no agreement on the decisions to be taken, the staff delegation may give power to the staff delegation board to continue discussions with the employer.

If no agreement is reached, the employer or delegation may submit the problem to a mediation board, set up as part of the collective agreement to which the business is subject.

If the business is not subject to a collective agreement, the mediator may be appointed by the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines at the request of the employer or staff delegation.

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