The objective of Directive 2002/14 is to establish a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community. In contrast to the European Works Council and European Company (SE) Directives, this legislation lays down minimum standards at national level. It is the first in which the EU has extended to every member state the obligation to provide a procedure for effective, ongoing and regular information and consultation for workers on recent and probable developments in the undertaking’s activities, financial and economic situation, the evolution of employment and in particular of decisions that might lead to major changes in the organisation of labour.

In its Communication on worker information and consultation [1], the Commission took stock of Community action in the field of information, consultation and participation of employees. Despite the existence of specific provisions on employee information and consultation, the Commission emphasised the need to redefine the Community legal framework in order to establish more binding rules. In its Communication, the Commission set out various options for the approach to be taken by Community action and encouraged the social partners to identify the arrangements for a general framework. Following this Communication the Commission presented a proposal for a Directive, the objective of which is to establish a general framework for employee information and consultation in undertakings located in the European Community.

Particular provisions applicable to undertakings which pursue directly and essentially political, professional organisational, religious, charitable, educational, scientific or artistic aims, as well as aims involving information and the expression of opinions, may be adopted on condition that, at the date of adoption of the Directive, such particular provisions already exist in national legislation. Member States may authorise the social partners to define freely, through agreement, the procedures for implementing the employee information and consultation requirements referred to in the Directive.

Employee information and consultation covers three areas in relation to undertakings:

  1. economic, financial and strategic developments;
  2. structure and foreseeable development of employment and related measures;
  3. decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or contractual relations.

Member States have the option of limiting the information and consultation obligations of undertakings with fewer than 50 or 20 employees, at the Member State’s discretion.

Employees’ representatives must enjoy adequate protection and guarantees to enable them to perform their duties.

The Directive regards as serious breaches of the Member States’ obligations:

  1. a total absence of information and/or consultation of the employees’ representatives prior to a decision being taken or the public announcement of such a decision;
  2. withholding of important information or provision of inaccurate information rendering ineffective the exercise of the right to information and consultation.

In the event of a serious breach with direct and immediate consequences in terms of substantial change or termination of employment contracts or relationships, the decisions taken have no legal effect. This situation continues until such time as the employer has fulfilled his information and consultation obligations. If this is no longer possible, the employer must establish adequate redress in accordance with the arrangements and procedures in place in the Member States.

The provisions of the Directive do not prejudice Council Directive 94/45/EC on the establishment of a European works council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purpose of informing and consulting employees.

[1] COM(95) 547 final – not published in Official Journal.