international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Germany: Employer Must Cover Additional Costs for in-person-training of Works Council Members

The Federal Labour Court decided on the claim of a staff representative body for payment of accommodation and catering costs for a training course. The Court decided that accommodation costs for a face-to-face training course for the works council must also be covered if the same training provider offers a webinar with the same content.



In the case before the court, a staff representative body has been established at the employer by collective agreement, whose training entitlement is based on the German Works Constitution Act. This staff representative body sent two of its members to a training course lasting several days. The employer paid the training fee for this but refused to cover the accommodation and catering costs. The main reason given for this was that the members of the staff representatives could have taken part in a webinar offered by the same training provider at the same time and with the same content.


Key Issues

In principle, the employer must bear the costs incurred by the works council’s activities. This includes the costs incurred when a works council member attends a training course, provided that the knowledge imparted during the training is necessary for the work of the works council. This was undisputed for the training in question here.

The Federal Labour Court decided that staff representatives, like works councils, have a certain amount of leeway when deciding which training courses to send their members to. This also includes the training form. This is not precluded by the fact that the costs of accommodation and catering for training participants are generally higher for a face-to-face training course than for a webinar. The staff representatives were entitled to assume that face-to-face training would be much more effective than a webinar in terms of the learning success to be achieved.

Practical Points

  • The Federal Labour Court clarified that works council members are not generally obliged to attend webinars instead of in-person-training for the mere purpose of cost saving. Despite this ruling, the works council’s leeway is not unlimited. For example, internal regulations can set limits for the works council. This may include the employer’s travel expense regulations, such as a limitation to a specific hotel category.
  • Employers confronted with reimbursement claims for works council trainings are still advised to check whether an equivalent, cost-saving alternative was available, e.g. at a closer location. The option of a digital attendance of the training will typically not eliminate reimbursement claims for accommodation and catering if the works council member chose in-person-training.