Arrangements for employee representation at board level in the EU countries plus Norway can be divided into three groups. There is a group of ten countries where there is no board level representation and a further group of six, where board level representation is limited to state-owned or recently privatised companies. However, the biggest group of 12 states provides for employees to be represented on the boards of private companies, once they have reached a certain size. These thresholds vary greatly as do other elements of the national arrangements.


Employee representatives at board level


A majority of the 27 states of the EU plus Norway provide for employee representation at board level, although in some this is limited to companies owned in whole or part by the state or recently privatised.


Only in ten countries are there no arrangements for board level representation. These are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta (where only companies owned by the union or Labour Party have employee directors), Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom. It could also be argued that neither Cyprus nor Portugal should be included in this list. In Cyprus, trade union representatives have recently been appointed to the boards of two banks, and, in Portugal, there is a constitutional right to be present at board level in state-owned companies, although it has never been implemented.


There are a further five countries, where board level representation is limited to some state-owned or municipally-owned companies. These are Belgium (although here very few companies are covered), Greece, Ireland, Poland (where partially-privatised companies are also covered, although the government is looking at reducing employee representation at board level)) and Spain (where local savings banks plus some publicly owned companies have board level representation). In addition, in France, board-level representation is extended to recently privatised companies, and French companies can also decide voluntarily to have employee representatives at board level.


This leaves 12 countries, the largest group, where employee representation at board level extends to private companies, although, in some of them, there are different arrangements or different employment thresholds for state-owned companies. The countries in this group are: Austria, the Czech Republic (although the government is considering making this optional), Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden. The thresholds for representation range from 25 employees in Sweden to 1,000 in Luxembourg.


As well as the thresholds, there are differences in the proportion of board seats taken by employee representatives, ranging from a quarter, in Finland, to a half, in some companies in Germany and Slovenia, and in whether the representatives take their seats on a supervisory board, as in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, or on a single tier board, as in Denmark or Sweden.


These differences are examined at greater length is the country sections, as well as other differences. These include the limits on the powers of employee members (in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, for example, they cannot deal with collective bargaining issues), and the arrangements for their appointments (in the Netherlands neither employees nor those who bargain with the company are eligible, while the German rules specifically provided for the election of external union officials in the case of larger companies).






Type of companies covered



Extent of representation






From 300 employees



A third of supervisory board






Small number of state-owned companies









No board level representation but employees have some right to be heard at shareholders’ general meetings






No statutory board level representation



Czech Republic



State-owned companies and private companies from 50 employees



A third of supervisory board






From 35 employees



Between two members and one third of board – (supervisory in public limited companies)






No board level representation






From 150 employees



A quarter of members of board or other decision making body






State-owned and recently privatised companies



A third of board in state-owned companies, around a fifth in others






From 500 employees



A third of supervisory board in companies with more than 500; half in companies with more than 2,000; special arrangements including management board member in coal, iron and steel companies






State-owned companies



Two board members






From 200 employees



A third of members on supervisory board (fewer rights in single tier board system)






State-owned companies



A third of board (less in some smaller companies)






No board level representation






No board level representation






No board level representation






From 1,000 employees or with state involvement



A third of board in companies with 1,000 plus employees, up to a third in others






No board level representation other than in companies owned by the union or Labour Party






From 100 employees



Up to a third of supervisory board






From 30 employees



One director in companies with 30 to 50 employees; one third of the seats in companies with more than 50, with the possibility of an extra seat in companies with more than 200






State-owned and partially privatised companies



A workers’ council has substantial powers in state-owned companies; in partially privatised companies employees have between 40% and about a third of seats on supervisory board and a seat on management board






State-owned companies



Right to be present in constitution but never realised






No board level representation






State-owned and private sector companies from 50 employees (also other conditions)



Half supervisory board in state-owned companies; a third in private sector






Companies with supervisory board; and companies with single tier board from 50 employees (also other conditions)



Between a third and a half of seats in companies with supervisory board plus management board member if more than 500 employees; around a third in companies with single tier board






Some state-owned and recently privatised companies and local savings banks



Two members in state-owned companies; between 5% and 15% in savings banks






From 25 employees



Around a third of single tier board



United Kingdom



No board level representation