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Co-determination basically refers to the participation and co-decision-making of those who are (can) influenced by decisions of others in their way of working and living in a dependent relationship based on formal legal or ownership relationships and who can help shape these through their participation in the decisions. With regard to employment relationships, co-determination in the narrower sense denotes the equal co- determination of employees or their representatives; their participation includes "softer" participation rights such as information and suggestion rights on the basis of participation and consultation.

Most member states of the European Union have statutory codetermination regulations. In Germany, the term has the political and legal meaning of the ability of employees and their representatives to influence decisions in their company or company. A distinction is made between company co-determination according to the Works Constitution Act , which is exercised by the works council in social, personnel and economic matters, and co-determination at company level , according to the co-determination laws ( Montan-MitbestG , MitbestG and Third Party Act ), through co-determination the employee representative in the supervisory body in strategic decisions. The equal regulation of employment and employment relationships through collective agreements represents a special form of (association) co-determination.

Co-determination goals

Co-determination in the company and in the company has emerged in a long historical process from very different motives and objectives. Some socially minded entrepreneurs and academic social reformers wanted, out of a liberal conviction, that workers should not be treated as factory subjects but as citizens with equal rights, and therefore campaigned for rights of participation. The (Prussian, Wilhelmine) state wanted to use a "reconciling workers policy" to prevent the civil war-like conflicts between capital and labor, especially in the Ruhr area, by giving workers the right to be heard and to participate ( workers' committees ). In the Weimar Republic the right of co-determination was enshrined in the constitution, and in the Federal Republic of Germany the Federal Constitutional Court (co-determination ruling of March 1, 1979) granted employees the right to co-determination. For the unions , participation in business, society and companies is a central field of activity.

Codetermination is intended to enable employees to influence business decisions. This concerns on the one hand the order of the company, the working conditions and the handling of the staff as well as economic decisions about the development and future of the company and the jobs. In a democratic electoral process, the employees appoint their representatives who defend their interests vis-à-vis the company management in the works council and as employee representatives on the supervisory board .

In its codetermination ruling of March 1, 1979, the Federal Constitutional Court states:

"[Corporate co-determination] has the task of alleviating the external control associated with the subordination of employees to external management and organizational power in larger companies through institutional participation in entrepreneurial decisions and supplementing the economic legitimation of company management with a social one."

Business ethical justification

From a business ethical point of view, the following arguments are used to justify co-determination:

  • Human dignity and self-determination,
  • Equality of capital and labor,
  • Principle of democracy,
  • Control of economic power.

Employee interest

The employees' interest in codetermination is, on the one hand, to be involved in decisions about working conditions (company level) and, on the other hand, to influence company policy (company level). Codetermination should complement the entrepreneurial orientation towards profit maximization through explicit consideration of employee interests in long-term employment security, humane working conditions and participation in economic success. In addition, from a trade union perspective, codetermination is justified as a means of controlling economic power and part of a comprehensive democratization of the economy.

Employer interest

In the scientific discussion, the thesis is put forward that employers are also interested in co-determination. In human resource management, it is sometimes viewed as a contemporary instrument for increasing performance in the sense of increasing productivity, reducing fluctuation rates and increasing employee motivation in a company. Some recent studies indicate that the frictional losses due to operational conflicts, fluctuations, internal resignations, etc. can be greater than the assumed efficiency losses when granting co-determination rights.

Types of co-determination (co-determination levels)

A distinction is made between four forms of participation:

  1. Participation in the workplace
  2. Employee participation
  3. Corporate participation
  4. Codetermination in the economy ("economic democracy")

Participation in the workplace in Germany

According to the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG) , §§ 81–84, the employee has the right to participation in the workplace. There he has the right to be informed about the job characteristics of the position and the responsibility he has to bear there. In operational planning, the employer must inform and discuss the effects on the workplace and the activity of the employee concerned. He must also be informed about the dangers of the work. These result from the risk assessment prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) and subject to co-determination . Furthermore, he has the right to make proposals and the right to inspect files.

In addition to the legal claims from the Works Constitution Act, various forms of direct employee participation - quality circles , group work , project teams - were introduced in many companies in the last decade of the 20th century . Under the influence of the "lean production" prevailing in Japan, management took the initiative to introduce group work. After the unions had given up their initial skepticism, they negotiated framework collective agreements and works council works agreements on group work. The contracts concluded by Volkswagen with IG Metall as part of the “ Auto 5000 ” model project , which, among other things, provided for the comprehensive establishment of group work with a “high level of group self-organization”, were of particular importance .

Employee participation


The subject of company co-determination are questions of order in the company, the design of workplaces, work processes and work environment, such as the distribution of working hours, personnel planning and guidelines for the selection of personnel, social facilities, time recording and performance control. In Germany, employee participation in WCA, the Civil Service in staff representation laws and in the churches in the staff representation laws regulated. In particular, it regulates the information, hearing and participation rights of the employee representatives, but also rights for individual employees, such as the right to be heard and complain and to inspect personnel files. The focus is on the need for protection of the workforce in everyday working life.

The organs of corporate co-determination are the works council , in the public sector the staff council and in the churches and church charitable institutions the employee representatives . Its job is to represent the interests of employees. From a workforce of five permanent employees, there is a legal right to be elected to the works council, in the public service and in the area of ​​the churches, the election of a company representative is even mandatory. The works council is the most important organ of employee participation.

Mandatory participation

In the core area of ​​the rights of co-determination are the facts standardized in Sections 87 (1), 91, 94, 95, 97 (2), 98, 112 BetrVG, which are subject to the equal decision of the employer and the works council. In these cases, an agreement with the works council or, alternatively, the verdict of the arbitration board in accordance with Section 87 (2) of the BetrVG is necessary for the effectiveness of every measure that burdens the employee. Where the employer is not allowed to regulate certain matters effectively without the works council according to the statutory provisions, the works council can force the employer to conclude works agreements that have a direct and mandatory effect (for the benefit of) all employees of the company. The enforceability results from § 87 Abs. 2 BetrVG, which provides for the decision of the arbitration board in the event of a failed agreement.

Voluntary participation

Voluntary participation must be distinguished from enforceable participation. Voluntary participation occurs where there is a lack of clear and unambiguous legal provisions - be it in the form of laws or in the form of collective agreements. Here, an employer can voluntarily conclude company agreements, but such regulations cannot be enforced. Cases of voluntary co-determination are legally standardized in Section 88 BetrVG, which, however, is not a final regulation.

Procedures and duties of conduct

The Works Constitution Act regulates the procedures in such cases. The Works Constitution Act obliges the works councils to cooperate with the employer in a spirit of trust. Works councils are subject to the duty of peace, labor disputes are prohibited by the Works Constitution Act.

This also applies somewhat to a limited extent to staff councils and employee representatives.

Young people have a special position within the company co-determination: they are represented by the youth and trainee representative JAV.

European Union

Employee participation is not a German specialty. Even if under a different name than that of the works council, “Austrian, Dutch, Danish and Swedish representative bodies [...] have similarly far-reaching rights of co-determination as the German works council. In Belgium, Finland, France, Norway and Greece, employee participation is at a medium level. Weak rights of influence can be found in the English-speaking group of countries as well as in Switzerland, Italy and Spain ”. A joint directive of the European Parliament and the European Commission of March 11, 2002 stipulates the introduction of company information and consultation procedures with employees for companies with 50 or more employees in all Member States.

Employee representation in large cross-border companies in the European Union or in the European Economic Area has been represented by the European Works Council since 1994 , which has the right to information and consultation by management.

Corporate participation

The subject of corporate codetermination are the entrepreneurial decisions that are made on the supervisory board of corporations. Employees are involved in them through their elected representatives from the company and from the unions represented in the company.

There are internal union requirements regarding the remuneration of the Supervisory Board. IG Metall , for example, demands that a percentage of the remuneration be paid to the Hans Böckler Foundation as a mandate holder contribution, namely 10% of the first 3500 euros per year and 95% of all remuneration beyond that.


In Germany, corporations are legally subject to codetermination if they employ more than 500 people. This is where the comparatively weak codetermination regulations of the One-Third Participation Act apply . If more than 2000 employees are employed, the more far-reaching codetermination regulations of the Codetermination Act (MitBestG) apply. The co-determination regulations in the Montan-MitbestG (MontanMitbestG) go furthest . It applies to mining operations (mining, iron, steel) that employ more than 1000 people. In Germany, 694 companies (as of 2008) have formed supervisory boards under the Codetermination Act, two thirds of them with a 12-person supervisory board, the rest with a 16 or 20-person supervisory board. Approx. 30 companies have supervisory boards according to the coal and steel co-determination law. Partnerships are not subject to co-determination, as the corresponding laws do not apply here.

The organ of corporate codetermination is the supervisory board . The supervisory board consists of representatives of the employees and the shareholders, its tasks are the appointment and dismissal of the management board, the supervision of the management and the examination of the books. In a partnership limited by shares , the supervisory board has neither personnel competence nor the right to approve the management (privilege of the KGaA under codetermination law).

Since German co-determination at company level excludes European employees, it is doubtful whether it can be used in international companies. The question is currently pending at the ECJ under the case number C-566/15 ("TUI AG").

European Union

Alongside Austria, Germany is the country with the longest history of co-determination on the supervisory board. Since the 1970s, however, the majority of European countries have followed this example, so that as of 2009 there are institutionalized co-determination rights at company level in 18 EU countries. In six countries (Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic) only state and municipal companies have employee representatives on the management bodies. The proportion of seats on the governing bodies is limited to a third participation in the majority of countries, although in some countries a higher quota up to parity is possible for state-owned companies. In Germany alone there is (nominally) equal representation for private companies. In the Scandinavian countries, companies often have only one monomial board system (so-called. Monistic rather than dualistic system), so that the employee representatives directly involved in all decisions of management involved.

Codetermination in the economy


Article 165 of the Weimar Constitution postulated a three-tier council system: "The workers and employees are called to participate in the regulation of wages and working conditions as well as in the overall economic development of the productive forces." , 2. District workers 'councils structured according to economic areas and 3. A Reich workers' council are created. For the "areas assigned to them" they should take on "control and administrative powers" and participate in the socialization laws. But apart from the works council, the organs of the other levels remained largely ineffective. In their program for “ economic democracy ” of 1928 and the Munich program of 1949, which aimed to democratize the economy, the trade unions adhered to the demand for economic and social councils with equal representation at sectoral and macroeconomic level.

European Union

The social partners and their associations in the European Economic and Social Committee are involved in the development and discussion of guidelines in the field of economic and working life .

Historical data on German co-determination laws

Developments and events that are described as forerunners of the codetermination demands and regulations:

German Confederation (1815 to 1871)

  • 1848: The constituent national assembly dealt with the minority draft of a trade regulation, in which, among other things, the arbitrariness of entrepreneurs should be limited by the choice of superiors and an equal representation of the trade chambers to be set up.
  • 1850: The first workers' committees were set up in four calico printing plants in Eilenburg, Saxony .

Empire (1871 to 1918)

  • 1891: After the socialist laws were repealed , workers' committees could be founded on a voluntary basis. This only happened where there were active unions or their predecessors (e.g. printing industry).
  • 1900: The Bavarian state parliament decides to make miners' committees mandatory in its territory.
  • 1905: As a reaction to the strike in the Ruhr coal mining industry , the Prussian mining law enshrined the introduction of workers' committees in mining companies with more than 100 employees.
  • 1916: The law of the Patriotic Aid Service provided for workers' committees for all war and supply-critical companies with more than 50 employees. These workers 'and employees' committees had a right to be heard on social matters.

Weimar Republic (1919 to 1933)

  • 1920: The Works Council Act was passed. A works council was planned for companies with more than 20 employees, the tasks of which were to represent the social and economic interests of the employees and to influence the management and performance of the company.

National Socialism (1933 to 1945)

After the Nazis seized power raised

  • 1934: the law on the organization of national labor of January 20, 1934 (RGBl. I p. 45) on the works council law; the dissolution of the unions was carried out. For the area of ​​the public service, the law on the order of work in public administrations and companies of March 23, 1934 (RGBl. I p. 220) was passed. Numerous implementing ordinances have been issued for both laws.

Countries in the Allied Occupation Zones (1945 to 1949)

After the collapse in 1945 there was a reorganization of co-determination, e.g. T. for economy and administration,

  • 1946: The Allied Control allowed by the Control Council Law No. 22. (English: Control Council Law No. 22) of 10 April 1946, the formation of works along the lines of the Weimar period .

In various state constitutions of the old (federal) states, codetermination regulations were provided:

  • Art. 175 of the Constitution of the Free State of Bavaria of December 2, 1946 (co-determination only for commercial enterprises),
  • Article 17 of the Berlin Constitution of September 1, 1950 (the right of co-determination of workers and employees in business and administration is to be guaranteed by law.),
  • Art. 26 of the constitution for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia of June 28, 1950 (right of employees to equal participation in shaping the economic and social order),
  • Art. 67 of the Constitution for Rhineland-Palatinate of May 18, 1947 (participation for all people working in the economy, works councils),
  • Art. 58 of the Saarland Constitution of December 15, 1947 (Obligation to be heard by the government of the association of employers and employees in economic communities, works council to safeguard the economic and social interests of employees; Paragraph 3 contains an institute guarantee for works councils and a regulatory mandate for a Works Council Act).

Only in two countries is codetermination explicitly considered an unrestricted fundamental right, both in business and in the public sector:

  • Art. 47 of the Constitution of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen of October 21, 1947 (Journal of Laws p. 251): Joint works councils for all persons in companies and authorities through the choice of employees; Participation in economic, social and personal issues of the company,
  • Art. 37 of the Constitution of the State of Hesse of December 1, 1946 (Law and Ordinance Gazette p. 229): In all companies and authorities, employees, workers and civil servants receive joint works councils through the election of the workers; Participation in social, personal and economic issues.

Codetermination Act from 1949 to 1990

  • 1949: Codetermination regulations also contained § 75 Act No. 15 of the military government on the administrative members of the administration of the United Economic Area (VOBl. 1949 p. 57),
  • 1951: The co-determination law for the coal and steel industry added a new level of co-determination at company level. In coal and steel companies (mining, iron and steel) with more than 1,000 employees, the supervisory board is made up of employee and capital representatives on an equal footing; the company's board of directors is expanded to include a labor director (not appointed against the majority of employee representatives on the supervisory board)
  • 1952: The Works Constitution Act regulates the participation and codetermination of employees.
  • 1955: Federal Personnel Representation Act of 5 Aug. 1955
  • 1972: Thoroughly revised the Works Constitution Act with extended rights of co-determination for the works council.
  • 1976: The Co-Determination Act introduces co-determination at company level outside the coal and steel industry in corporations with more than 2,000 employees.
  • 1979: The Federal Constitutional Court rejects the constitutional complaint by nine companies and 29 employers 'and employers' associations against the Codetermination Act with the argument that the Basic Law is neutral in terms of economic policy .
  • 1988: Amendment of the Works Constitution Act (including information and advice rights when new technical systems are introduced).

Co-determination laws after the unity of Germany

Constitutions of the new federal states (after 1990)

From the new federal states only three codetermination regulations have been included in their constitutions:

  • Art. 50 of the Constitution of the State of Brandenburg of Aug. 20, 1992 (In accordance with the law, both employees and their trade unions have the right to participate in matters relating to companies, companies and departments.),
  • Art. 50 of the Constitution of the Free State of Saxony of May 27, 1992 (In accordance with the law, the right to co-determination for the representative bodies of employees in companies, offices and institutions of the state.),
  • Art. 37 of the Constitution of the Free State of Thuringia dated October 29, 1993 (In accordance with the law, employees and their associations have the right to co-determination in matters relating to their companies, companies or offices.),

Federal laws

  • 2001: Amendment of the Works Constitution Act (among other things, simplification of the electoral procedure; lowering of the exemption threshold; co-determination on “principles of group work”).
  • The BetrVG 1952 will be replaced by the One- Third Participation Act.

German co-determination laws

Montan Co-Determination Act of 1951

Co-determination of the coal and steel industry essentially came about through the behavior of the large German corporations during the Nazi era (see also: Economy in National Socialist Germany). Immediately after the end of the Second World War, the Allies confiscated the heavy industrial conglomerates on the Ruhr, Hitler's bastions of the war economy. In order to control the economic power in Germany, the corporations should be unbundled. An Allied control authority for the North German iron and steel industry, together with a German trust administration, with the participation of the trade unions, dismantled the corporations. In April 1948, the unbundling of the iron and steel industry was completed: in 23 newly founded steelworks, the supervisory boards were made up of equal numbers of employee representatives (in addition to two employees, three external trade union representatives) and the company management board was expanded to include a labor director appointed by the employees. The equal corporate co-determination was still a provisional arrangement - neither legally nor contractually secured.

When the conservative parliamentary majority in the newly constituted Federal Republic wanted to abolish equal participation, the DGB, under the leadership of Hans Böckler , showed its resolve to fight. After massive threats of strike from the trade unions (strike votes in IG Metall and IG Bergbau und Energie), an agreement was reached between Konrad Adenauer and Hans Böckler. With the law on the co-determination of employees in the supervisory boards and executive boards of companies in the mining and iron and steel industries of May 21, 1951 ( MontanMitbestG ), equal co-determination in the coal and steel industry was legally ratified. This law, which came into force on June 7, 1951 , provided for equal representation of the supervisory board with representatives of the employees and the capital.

On the employee side, in addition to company representatives and trade union representatives, a “further member” must also be named. This should protect the interests of the public. To resolve possible stalemates, a neutral member is provided, on which the parties must agree. A member for personnel and social matters ( labor director ) must also be appointed to the company's board of directors. His appointment cannot be made against the votes of the majority of the employee representatives on the Supervisory Board.

The following years were characterized by attempts by companies to undermine the Montan Act or to escape its scope. For example, the steel company Mannesmann founded a parent company that did not fall under the Coal and Steel Co-Determination Act because it did not produce any steel. The Codetermination Supplementary Act (“Lex Mannesmann”) then closed the loophole by creating a group parent company to undermine coal and steel co-determination. However, some regulations in this law deviate from the original intention of not only involving company interest representatives, but also representatives of the public who are not only associated with company-related interests in company decisions. (The "other member" is omitted, as are places for the trade union federation and the influence of the employee side in the appointment of the labor director is less than under the Coal and Steel Community Act.)

At the end of the sixties there were intensified considerations among parties and trade unions as to how co-determination or a similar regulation could be made binding for the entire economy.

Works Constitution Act of October 11, 1952

This law introduced regulations on employee co-determination by the works council (see Works Constitution) and on co-determination in companies.

The works council, as an interest group to be elected by all employees in the company, was granted graduated participation rights (information, consultation, co-determination) in social, personal and economic matters. The economic decisions were made subject to information, but otherwise remained largely untouched.

According to §§ 76 ff BetrVG, a third of the supervisory board members were elected by the employees in companies with limited liability that employed more than 500 people and in stock corporations (exception: family companies). A third participation applies to the supervisory board of an AG, GmbH or cooperative, which means that for every two other members of the supervisory board, the works council or the general works council can each send one employee representative. Participation in committees of the Supervisory Board is also required.

The BetrVG 1952 was replaced by the Third Participation Act of May 18, 2004.

Works Constitution Act of January 15, 1972

The 1952 BetrVG was supplemented by a new law in 1972. The new BetrVG 1972 only contains regulations on employee participation at company level. The regulations on corporate co-determination continued to exist in the BetrVG 1952 until the third-party participation law came into force (see below).

In the BetrVG 1972 , among other things, the rights of co-determination in the social and personal area and the protection of the works council were expanded. In addition to the position of the trade union, the rights of the individual employee have also been strengthened, who are granted certain rights of participation and complaints. The predominantly reactive character of co-determination based on veto rights, which is almost exclusively geared towards the social protection of employees and the control of abuse of power by employers, has hardly changed. A few rights of initiative exist only in the social and personal area. The underlying principle of harmony has not changed, although recently there is no longer any demand for “consideration of the common good”. And the lack of real co-determination in economic issues has not changed either, apart from an information obligation in the economic committee and the information and advisory rights in the event of planned operational changes, insofar as these result in "significant disadvantages" for the workforce.

Codetermination Act of May 4, 1976

After long deliberations and disputes in parliament, the Codetermination Act was passed in 1976 for all German corporations (AG, Genossenschaft, GmbH and KGaA) with over 2000 employees. It looks a formal parity of the employee representatives on the supervisory board: these are indeed the same number of seats as the shareholder representatives, the opportunity to participate equally and equal weight to enforce, but is weakened by two modifications: is the one absolutely on the employee side, a senior executive representing ; on the other hand, the shareholders can outvote the employees in stalemate situations with the chairman of the supervisory board having double voting rights.

Depending on the size of the company, the Supervisory Board consists of 12, 16 or 20 members. Two to three seats are reserved for the unions represented in the companies. The remaining seats on the employee side are distributed among the workers, employees and executives according to their share in the company, with at least one seat falling to each group. The work of the co-determination committee set up by Chancellor Schröder in 2005, consisting of employers and trade unions, ended without results . It should make consensual recommendations for changes to the federal government.

Third Participation Act of May 18, 2004

The One-Third Participation Act gives employees in stock corporations, limited partnerships to stocks, limited liability companies, mutual insurance associations, as well as commercial and business cooperatives with more than 500 employees each, a right of co-determination on the supervisory board of these companies, one third of which must be made up of employees. It replaces the Works Constitution Act of 1952 (§§ 76 ff.).

Evaluation of corporate co-determination in Germany

While the company co-determination by the works council is largely accepted after the controversial debate about the amendment of the Works Constitution Act of 1972, contradicting positions have continued to be held since its introduction with the Montan Co-Determination Act of 1951. This applies in particular to the Codetermination Act of 1976.


Proponents of the theory of rights of disposal argue that a legally fixed co-determination cannot lead to Pareto optimality . As a rule, this results in economically inefficient organizational structures . State co-determination regulations also led to decisions being detached from the associated risk. The representatives of the theoretical opposite position, the participation theory , on the other hand, expect co-determination to “increase the motivation and cooperation of the employees” and thus a cooperation pension .

In 1997, Dieter Sadowski summed up the previous studies on corporate co-determination to the effect that - "due to massive methodological problems" - "an evaluation of the effect of co-determination on the profitability of German companies simply by recording supervisory board co-determination is not promising". In a more recent publication, Sigurt Vitols from the Berlin Science Center sums up the current state of research of six studies on the economic performance of corporate co-determination as follows: three studies show positive effects on productivity or innovation or returns, two studies have neutral effects on stock market valuation and returns, and a sixth study Finally, a stock market discount of 31 percent is expected for companies with co-determination.

The Bielefeld economic historian Werner Abelshauser describes co-determination as "a productive resource of the German economy". It was "from the beginning part of the recipe for economic success that established the dynamism and competitiveness of German industry - and continues to promote it". Their economic value lies not only “in their Irish and socio-political function, but also in their contribution to the stabilization and reduction of production and transaction costs within complex market and production processes”.

The economist Axel von Werder , head of the Berlin Center of Corporate Governance (BCCG), which is sponsored by well-known German companies, criticizes the lack of efficiency of the system in terms of corporate co-determination. The size of the committees, especially on the supervisory board, is overdimensioned, the compulsion to compromise prevents contentious issues from being resolved clearly and quickly in the supervisory board , and the skills of the elected employee representatives may not correspond to the qualifications required in a large corporation. There is also a legitimation problem with international German corporations, since only domestic employees can be elected to the supervisory board. Furthermore, there is a conflict of interest among the employee representatives on the supervisory board, for example in collective bargaining and relocation to strengthen competitiveness.

Corporate governance expert Nico Raabe from the Institute for Management at Berlin's Humboldt University draws a generally positive conclusion on co-determination on the supervisory board . In an empirical study based on personal interviews with members of the supervisory board of both banks from 26 of the DAX 30 companies, he comes to the conclusion that codetermination where it "does not meet expectations" suffers less from institutional deficiencies in legislation than a lack of willingness on the part of the actors to practice cooperation in the co-determined supervisory board in the interests of the company in a pragmatic and result-oriented manner. " A primary responsibility of the employee representatives for problems in the supervisory board practice is not recognizable. Rather, the employee representatives orient themselves, in a good as well as in a bad sense, to the example of the behavior of the so-called capital side. In a majority of the DAX 30 companies, the work of the supervisory board functions efficiently and smoothly. Co-determination in the supervisory board even helps to overcome factual and opinion filters and thus improve the quality of the work of the committees.


Proponents of the German model such as trade unions, union-related institutions as well as unorganized employee representatives, but also various social, political, legal and economic scientists see corporate and corporate codetermination as a successful model, which is achieved by granting codetermination rights to employees and theirs Representatives made a significant contribution to securing social peace; from the trade union side one even speaks of a "locational advantage". Codetermination is a component of the German economic and social system, both as a source of information and as a control body, and is described as “a supporting pillar of our democracy”. In the opinion of its proponents, codetermination in the company and company has reduced class struggle thinking, with the result that cooperation, (consensual) structural change and increased internal peace as well as a relationship of trust between employees and employers characterize the companies with codetermination.

Business associations

The Federation of German Industries (BDI) criticizes possible discounts on the capital market and the weakening of Germany as a destination for the settlement of holdings and international corporations. Instead of equal participation, the BDI advocates reducing participation to a third participation of employees in the supervisory board. In 2004, the then President of the BDI Michael Rogowski described equal participation as an "error of history."

The President of the Federal Employers' Association of the Chemical Industry , Werner Wenning , placed co-determination in the context of the social market economy : “The social market economy is characterized by a strong emphasis on social partnership. One focus is codetermination, i.e. the involvement of employees in both operational and entrepreneurial decisions. This togetherness in the German economy supports the social stability of our community. Co-determination plays an important role in the democratic culture of the Federal Republic of Germany. "


In a company survey of DAX companies in 1998, in which executives were asked whether they were for or against the abolition of supervisory board participation, only a minority of 23 percent were in favor of abolishing it, 53 percent were against a restriction, 18 percent against any restriction.

The opinion of the editor-in-chief of Manager-Magazin , Wolfgang Kaden , is also the opinion that leading managers of corporations prefer to preserve the supervisory board participation rather than eliminate it . The managers praised its consensus and peace-building effect. Above all, however, it enjoys such high esteem among top managers because it extends their power, since codetermination weakens the position of the controlling body and thus strengthens the position of the board of directors.


The founders of the social market economy spoke out against equal corporate co-determination, but advocated corporate co-determination through the works council. Ludwig Erhard called for a clear dividing line between participation , which is an element of the free market economy, and participation , which belongs to the "area of ​​the planned economy". Alfred Müller-Armack rejected co-determination by external union members and the equal co-determination of the employee representatives on the supervisory board, but he advocated the extended co-determination rights initially rejected by the employers, which the amended Works Constitution Act 1972 granted the works council.

In Kurt Biedenkopf's view , equal participation has basically proven its worth. In 1968 and 1969 he headed a commission which made the recommendation to introduce equal corporate co-determination beyond the coal and steel industry in the large corporations in the rest of the economy. Biedenkopf was Secretary General of the CDU at the time . The Codetermination Act of 1976, passed on the basis of the Commission's recommendation, was passed with an overwhelming majority of 389 to 22 votes. The FDP was also one of its unreserved supporters at the time. In the legislative debate , the chairman of the parliamentary group at the time, Wolfgang Mischnick , put it: "The same citizen who elects legislative bodies and can influence the formation of his government must not be relegated to a subject again as an economic citizen". Later, however, the FDP called for the abolition of parity co-determination, which it described as a “major stumbling block for foreign investments in Germany”.

The chairman of the Christian Democratic Workforce , Hermann-Josef Arentz , commented on the statement by the BDI President, Michael Rogowski , as follows: “It is not the co-determination that is a mistake in history, but the position of Mr. Rogowski is a fundamental error.” Co-determination belong "to the basic equipment of the social market economy".

A commission set up by the former Federal Chancellor Schröder in 2005 to evaluate corporate co-determination, again headed by Kurt Biedenkopf, argued in its 2006 report by the scientific committee members (the employer representatives submitted a different opinion) that equal corporate co-determination had also proven itself economically sees no reason for a fundamental revision, but recommends moderate modernization (including opening up for decentralized negotiated solutions, simplifying the electoral process, mandates for representatives of foreign workforces belonging to the group). According to the 2006 Biedenkopf Commission, “German corporate co-determination [...] is part of a European variety of different forms of employee participation in corporate decision-making processes”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel described co-determination as "a great achievement". It is "an indispensable part of our social market economy". The task of further developing German corporate co-determination suitable for Europe shows that there is a need for change. “It's about making our co-determination systems more flexible and thus making them sustainable. Perhaps the path we have taken at European level is an approach that we could live with. ”Merkel differentiates her own criticism from the criticism of“ some employers ”, for whom the codetermination procedure is“ too bureaucratic, time-consuming and cost-intensive and the legal systems are too inflexible ”. “For some, the supervisory boards are too big. From their point of view, appointing people from outside the company often leads to irrelevant decisions. A lot can be said about that. But I do not agree with that ”.

The Minister of Labor Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) attests to the institution of codetermination in the foreword to the volume “Codetermination - a good idea” published by her ministry: “Codetermination has proven itself in Germany and is a pillar of our social peace. Even and especially in the economic crisis. "

At a memorial event on May 2, 1933, when the trade unions were smashed by the Nazis, Federal President Joachim Gauck said: “Democracy obliges, and at the same time it opens up opportunities for development. The history of co-determination after 1945 is an excellent example of this. [...] Germany still needs a lively employee representation; it needs co-determination in its company! Germany needs living democracy in everyday working life! "

Companies without participation in Germany

The number of companies based in Germany that are no longer subject to the co-determination laws due to a foreign legal form is increasing: “In 2006, there were only 17 companies based in Germany with at least 500 employees, for example a British Limited , a Dutch BV or a American Incorporated finds in the name, there were already 37 in November 2009. “Well-known companies that are no longer subject to the co-determination laws are z. B. United Parcel Service or Air Berlin .

See also

  • Co-determination
  • Codecision
  • Participation
  • Participation


  • BMAS (ed.): Codetermination - a good thing. Everything about codetermination and its legal basis , Bonn 2010, 416 pp.
  • Sarah Bormann: Attack on codetermination. Corporate strategies against works councils - the Schlecker case . Edition Sigma , Berlin 2007. ISBN 978-3-8360-8685-1 .
  • Alexander Dilger : Economics of corporate co-determination. The economic consequences of works councils . Hampp Verlag, Munich and Mering 2002. ISBN 3-87988-645-8 .
  • Bernd Frick , Norbert Kluge. Wolfgang Streeck (ed.); The economic consequences of participation . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1999. ISBN 3-593-36326-7 .
  • Maria Funder : Status and Perspectives of Codetermination. From institution-oriented co-determination to industrial relations research . Manuscripts 187. Hans Böckler Foundation, Düsseldorf 1995.
  • Ralph Greifenstein, Leo Kißler : Co-determination as reflected in research. A review of the empirical studies 1952-2010 . Sigma, Berlin 201I. ISBN 978-3-8360-8723-0 .
  • Peter Hanau, Peter Ulmer , Mathias Habersack : right of co-determination. Commentary on the MitbestG, the Third Party Act and §§ 34 to 38 SEBG . (= Beck's short comments; Vol. 24). 2nd Edition. Beck, Munich 2006. ISBN 3-406-44832-1 .
  • Martin Höpner: Corporate codetermination under attack . In: Industrial Relations . 11 vol. (2004), no. 4, pp. 347-379.
  • Felix Hörisch: Corporate Codetermination in National and International Comparison - Development and Economic Effects . Series Policy Research and Comparative Government, Volume 8. LIT-Verlag, Berlin and Münster 2009.
  • Uwe Jirjahn: Economic Effects of Codetermination in Germany: An Update . Working paper 186. Hans Böckler Foundation, Düsseldorf 2010.
  • Leo Kißler , Ralph Greifenstein, Karsten Schneider: Codetermination in the Federal Republic of Germany. An introduction . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2011.
  • Christian Koller : "The captain rules on a ship, not a sailor's council" - The codetermination debate after the Swiss national strike , in: Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte 69/1 (2019). Pp. 49-72.
  • Karl Lauschke: More democracy in the economy. The history of the co-determination law of 1976 . Hans Böckler Foundation, Düsseldorf 2006.
  • Karl Lauschke: Half the power. Co-determination in the iron and steel industry from 1945 to 1989 . Klartext, Essen 2007. ISBN 978-3-89861-729-1 .
  • Werner Milert, Rudolf Tschirbs: The other democracy. Employee representation of interests in Germany, 1848 to 2008 . Klartext Verlag, Essen 2012. ISBN 978-3-8375-0742-3 .
  • Walther Müller-Jentsch : Co-determination between economic efficiency and democratic standards . In: Ders .: Work and Citizen Status. Studies on social and industrial democracy . VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2008, pp. 181-199. ISBN 978-3-531-16051-1 .
  • Walther Müller-Jentsch: Codetermination. Employee rights in the company and in the company . Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2010. ISBN 978-3-658-24173-5 .
  • Fritz Naphtali : Economic Democracy . Your essence, path and goal . European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1977. ISBN 3-434-45021-1 .
  • Otto Neuloh : The German works constitution and its social forms up to co-determination . JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1956.
  • Horst-Udo Niedenhoff: Codetermination in the Federal Republic of Germany . 14th edition. IW, Cologne 2005. ISBN 3-602-14698-7 .
  • Hans Pohl (Ed.): Co-determination and works constitution in Germany, France and Great Britain since the 19th century . Proceedings of the 16th scientific symposium at Quint Castle near Trier 1993. Steiner, Stuttgart 1996. ISBN 3-515-06894-5 .
  • Erich Potthoff : The fight for coal and steel co-determination, Bund-Verlag, Cologne 1994, ISBN 978-3766309877
  • Birger P. Priddat : Performance of the social partnership in the social market economy. Codetermination and cooperation . Metropolis Verlag, Marburg 2011.
  • Nico Raabe: Codetermination on the Supervisory Board - Theory and Reality in German Stock Companies . Erich-Schmidt-Verlag, Berlin 2011. ISBN 978-3-503-12619-4 .
  • Simon Renaud: Employee participation in structural change . Metropolis, Marburg 2008. ISBN 978-3-89518-691-2 .
  • Martin Schwarz-Kocher, Eva Kirner, Jürgen Dispan, Angela Jäger, Ursula Richter, Bettina Seibold, Ute Weißfloch: Representing interests in the innovation process. The influence of co-determination and employee participation on company innovations . Edition Sigma, Berlin 2011. ISBN 978-3-8360-8725-4 .
  • Wolfgang Streeck, Norbert Kluge (Hrsg.): Codetermination in Germany. Tradition and efficiency . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1999. ISBN 3-593-36239-2 .
  • Hans-Jürgen Teuteberg : History of industrial co-determination in Germany . Mohr (Siebeck), Tübingen 1961.
  • Wlotzke / Wißmann / Koberski / Kleinsorge, Codetermination Law , 4th edition, Munich 2011, Verlag Franz Vahlen. ISBN 978-3-8006-3672-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Codetermination  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Board-level employee representation in Europe
  2. §§ 80I; 98 II, 99; 93, 95 II, 98 II, 104; 87, 91, 94, 95 I, 98, 102, 112 BetrVG
  3. See basically Wolfgang Däubler : The basic right to co-determination and its realization through collective bargaining justification of participation rights . European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1973.
  4. ^ Hans-Jürgen Teuteberg : History of industrial co-determination in Germany . Mohr (Siebeck), Tübingen 1961.
  5. Walther Müller-Jentsch: Mitbestimungspolitik . In: Wolfgang Schroeder (Ed.): Handbook of trade unions in Germany . 2nd Edition. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2014, pp. 505-534.
  6. BVerfGE 50, 290 .
  7. Demele, MarkusParticipation as a core requirement of social justice in Europe( Memento of the original from February 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Presentation on October 3, 2009, Bratislava, on the website of the Nell-Breuning Institute
  8. Elmar Gerum: Codetermination . In: Georges Enderle, Karl Homan, Martin Honecker, Walter Kerber, Horst Steinmann (Hrsg.): Lexikon der Wirtschaftsethik . Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1993, p. 718 ff .
  9. Alexander Dilger: Economics of corporate co-determination. The economic consequences of works councils . Hampp Verlag, Munich / Mering 2002 .; Alexander Dilger: Economic Effects of Codetermination . In: Walther Müller-Jentsch, Hansjörg Weitbrecht (Ed.): The Changing Contours of German Industrial Relations . Hampp Verlag, Munich / Mering 2003, p. 119-135 . ; Andrea Kuffner : Employee participation in the European stock corporation . Wiku-Verlag, 2003, p. 6 . ; Dieter Frick
  10. Walther Müller-Jentsch: Codetermination. Employee rights in the company and in the company . Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2010, p. 30 f.
  11. ^ Lothar Kamp: group work. Analysis and recommendations for action . Hans Böckler Foundation, Düsseldorf 1999.
  12. Michael Schumann / Martin Kuhlmann / Frauke Sanders / Hans Joachim Sperling: Auto 5000: a new production concept. The German answer to the Toyota way? VSA Hamburg 2006, p. 90ff.
  13. ^ OECD: Labor Standards and Economic Integration . In: Economic Outlook, July 1994 (OECD Paris); quoted according to: Martin Höpner: Corporate co-determination under attack . In: Industrial Relations, Volume 11, Volume 4/2004, p. 349.
  14. Directive 2002/14 / EG (PDF)
  15. Co-determination: Trade unionists should not earn money on the supervisory board. FAZ, July 11, 2005, accessed on December 12, 2015 .
  16. Number of co-determined companies 1977-2008 (PDF; 113 kB)
  17. ^ Jeremy Waddington, Aline Conchon: Board-Level Employee Representation in Europe. Priorities, Power and Articulation. 2016, p. XIV.
  18. Walther Müller-Jentsch: Codetermination. Employee rights in the company and in the company . Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2019, p. 41.
  19. ^ Jeremy Waddington, Aline Conchon: Board-Level Employee Representation in Europe. Priorities, Power and Articulation. 2016, p. 192 ff .; Walther Müller-Jentsch: Codetermination. Employee rights in the company and in the company . Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2019, p. 42 f.
  20. ^ Hans-Jürgen Teuteberg: History of industrial co-determination in Germany . Mohr (Siebeck), Tübingen 1961, p. 94 ff.
  21. ^ Hans-Jürgen Teuteberg: History of industrial co-determination in Germany . Mohr (Siebeck), Tübingen 1961, p. 218.
  22. Hueck / Nipperdey / Dietz Law for the Order of National Work with all implementing ordinances and the law on work in public administrations and companies with its implementing ordinances , Commentary, 2nd edition, Munich and Berlin (CH Beck) 1937
  23. Supplement No. 2 to the Law and Ordinance Gazette for Greater Hesse of June 11, 1946 (No. 17), p. 29 ff.
  24. Michael Elicker, Art. 58 Rn. 4 in Wendt / Rixecker: Constitution of the Saarland , Commentary, Saarbrücken (Verlag Alma Mater) 2009, ISBN 978-3-935009-37-9 , also as a PDF file at % 20SVerf% 20 (final version% 2022-06-09) .pdf
  25. Norbert Breunig On the history of the origins of the basic right of co-determination in the state of Hesse Arbeit und Recht (ArbuR) 1987, pp. 20–24
  26. Heidi Riedel-Ciesla / Dieter Wittmann The basic right to co-determination according to the Hessian constitution (Art. 37 HV) - material volume on the constitutional dispute over the amended Hessian Personnel Representation Act (HPVG) from 1984 with introduction . Foreword by Herbert Mai . Frankfurt am Main 1985, 256 pages.
  27. Cf. Karl Lauschke: Half the Power. Codetermination in the iron and steel industry 1945 to 1989 , Klartext, Essen 2007, p. 26 ff.
  28. Unternehmensmitbesthung_2007.pdf p. 6.
  29. Joachim Junkes and Dieter Sadowski: Codetermination on the Supervisory Board: Increasing Efficiency or Thinning Out Rights of Disposal? In: The economic consequences of co-determination: Expert reports for the Bertelsmann Stiftung / Hans-Böckler-Stiftung Mitbestigung . Campus Verlag 1999, p. 57 ff. ISBN 9783593363264 .
  30. ^ Dieter Sadowski: Codetermination - Profits and Investments . Expertise for the project “Co-determination and new corporate cultures” of the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Hans-Böckler-Foundation. Bertelsmann Stiftung publishing house , Gütersloh 1997, p. 45.
  31. ^ Sigurt Vitols: Participation of employees in supervisory board committees . Working paper 163, Hans Böckler Foundation, Düsseldorf 2008, p. 27.
  32. Werner Abelshauser: Anyone who dismantles the Germany model will pay dearly . [1] In. Co-determination. The magazine of the Hans Böckler Foundation. 54th vol., H. 10/2008, pp. 40f.
  33. Werner Abelshauser: Kulturkampf - The German way into the new economy and the American challenge . Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2003, p. 152. ISBN 3-931659-51-8
  34. Axel von Werder: Modernization of co-determination , discussion paper ( Memento of the original from June 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. dated November 26, 2003, The paper is based on the discussions held at the roundtable of the Berlin Center of Corporate Governance ( BCCG ( Memento of the original dated June 1, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ) led to a total of five meetings on the modernization of co-determination in 2002 and 2003 . The members of the round table included 12 company representatives, a scientist and a participant from the field of standardization. “The Berlin Center of Corporate Governance (BCCG) was founded in 2002 at the Chair of Organization and Corporate Management at the Technical University of Berlin (Axel v. Werder) with the support of well-known German companies ( Memento of the original from April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: Der Archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. founded "(from: BCCG Mission Statement ( Memento of the original from September 25, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ) and will headed by Axel von Werder. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  35. Interview: Problems with confidentiality in the magazine Mitbestimmen 4/2010,
  36. ^ Nico Raabe: Codetermination in the Supervisory Board - Theory and Reality in German Stock Companies . Erich-Schmidt-Verlag, Berlin 2011, p. 385. ISBN 978-3-503-12619-4
  37. Böckler Impulse Edition 02/2005: Corporate Governance made in Germany: Codetermination as a locational advantage
  38. ^ Peter Graf Kielmansegg: After the catastrophe, A history of divided Germany , Siedler Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-88680-329-5 , p. 432 ff.
  39. Archived copy ( Memento of the original dated February 8, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  40. Archived copy ( memento of the original from January 8, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  41. ^ Joachim Paul: Introduction to general business administration . Springer 2006. ISBN 3834903361 . P. 235.
  42. Interview with Hubertus Schmoldt and Wener Wenning. In: Klaus Tenfelde et al. (Ed.): Is the chemistry right? Klartext, Essen 2007, p. 435. ISBN 978-3-89861-888-5 .
  43. ^ Martin Höpner: Co-determination under fire . In: Industrial Relations . Vol. 11, H. 4, 2004, p. 356.
  44. ^ Wolfgang Kaden: Codetermination and corporate control . Acceptance speech for the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Business Journalism 2002.
  45. Walther Müller-Jentsch: Co-determination, the misunderstood factor of order . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of September 23, 2009, p. 12.
  46. ^ In: Allgemeine Kölnische Rundschau (December 27/28, 1949). Quoted from: Stötzel, Georg; Wengeler, Martin: Controversial terms: history of public language use in the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995. - ISBN 3-11-014106-X . P. 57
  47. Manfred Wulff: The employment and social policy in the field of tension of interests. Metropolis-Verlag GmbH, 2008, p. 63. ISBN 3895186740
  48. ^ Alfred Müller-Armack: The basic formula of the social market economy . In: Ludwig-Erhard-Stiftung (Ed.) Symposium I: Social market economy as a national and international order . Verlag Bonn aktuell, Stuttgart 1978, p. 13.
  49. Co-determination in the company . Report of the expert commission on the evaluation of previous experiences with co-determination . BT printed matter VI / 334, 1970.
  50. FAZ, father of co-determination , November 15, 2006, p. 18
  51. ^ Karl Lauschke: More democracy in the economy. The history of the co-determination law of 1976 , Düsseldorf: Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, p. 86.
  52. cit. According to Martin Höpner: Visit to a reform construction site .
  53. ^ FDP parliamentary group wants a motion for a resolution on the reform of co-determination. In: . November 2, 2004, accessed February 12, 2015 .
  54. Rheinische Post of October 19, 2004.
  55. Commission for the modernization of German corporate co-determination. Report of the scientific members of the commission with statements of the representatives of the companies and representatives of the workers. December 2006 ( PDF  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  56. Commission for the modernization of German corporate co-determination. Report of the scientific members of the commission with statements of the representatives of the companies and representatives of the workers. December 2006 p. 28.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  57. Merkel, Angela: Speech by Chancellor Merkel on the occasion of the anniversary event "30 Years of the Codetermination Act" of the Hans Böckler Foundation. In: REGIERUNGonline (August 30, 2006), online: Speech by Chancellor Merkel ( Memento of the original of May 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , read on June 6, 2009. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  58. BMAS (ed.): Codetermination - a good thing. Everything about codetermination and its legal basis, Bonn 2010, p. 7.
  59. Speech at the memorial event
  60. Corporate participation. Ltd. & Co. KG lack of participation , Böckler Impulse, 05/2010
  61. Withdrawn from codetermination , from Böckler Impuls, 5/2010