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10. Trade Unions and Employers Associations

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10. Trade Unions and Employers Associations

Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations

Part of the constitutional system of the Czech Republic is the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. According to Article 20 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, everyone has the right to freely associate. Article 27 enshrines the right to freely associate with others to protect one’s economic and social interests.

Employers’ organisations represent employers’ representatives. They act both in “tripartite negotiations” (government, unions, employers) and as one of the contracting parties when concluding collective agreements of a higher level. The reason for the establishment of an employer organisation is primarily to defend the business and economic interests of its members more effectively.

Employees also have the right to organise in unions. The affiliation of employees to unions is not mandatory. The employee is free to decide whether or not to join the union. Trade unions are established independently of the state and their number is not limited, neither within the entire Czech Republic, nor at one employer.

Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

There are many topics which should be consulted with the Trade Union according to the Labour Code, in particular:

  • notice on or immediate termination of employment;
  • measures relating to an overall adjustment of working hours, overtime, the possibility of arranging work on non-business days and night work with respect to health and safety at the workplace;
  • the employer’s financial situation;
  • anticipated economic developments at the employer;
  • a system of remuneration and assessment for employees;
  • changes in work organisation;
  • a system of training and education for employees;
  • other measures relating to a higher number of employees, etc.

In practice, the trade union and the employer agree on the frequency and manner of consultation of the above stated topics (e.g. a written notice of changes, terminated employments, etc. may suffice).

The employer requires the trade union’s consent for:

  • a notice or immediate cancellation of employment of a member of a trade union body during their office term or during the period of one year after its termination. Such a notice or immediate cancellation may be invalid without such consent. Consent is presumed to have been granted if the union did not refuse to grant it within 15 days from the date on which it was requested by the employer. In case the union refuses to give consent, the employer can apply to the Court for consent;
  • issuance of and changes to the internal working regulations (in Czech: “Pracovní řád”);
  • issuance of a schedule for taking holiday (in practice this usually does not apply as employees often schedule their holiday time on their own).

Trade unions can enter into collective agreements. Collective agreements are binding not only for unionised employees, but also for all other employees of employers for whom a collective agreement was negotiated.

Types of Representation

Trade unions are the only legitimate representatives of all employees in the legal sense of the word. Trade unions are created on a sectoral or professional basis. In order to promote their interests more effectively, trade unions often form “a “higher level” trade union. But it is not a condition. Individual “higher” trade unions then join confederations or other units.

“Higher” trade unions can also form a joint organisation that represents the economic and social interests of employees and union members at the national level.

Number of Representatives

Trade unions are considered as the main type of employees’ representatives in the Czech Republic. The Labour Code assigns the most rights to trade union representatives. At least 3 employees must establish a trade union.  The preparatory committee establishes the statutes and then approves them at the founding meeting. The creation of a new trade union is reported to the Ministry of the Interior and a proposal is submitted for its registration (notification principle). The trade union must be registered in the Commercial Register. The rights of a trade union commence on the day following the date when the trade union notified the employer that it fulfilled the conditions for its creation.

In case of two or more trade unions within one employer, the employer shall fulfil the rights and duties in relation to all the trade unions unless the parties determine another information and consultation procedure or expression of consent.

Appointment of Representatives

The participation of employees in unions is not mandatory. The employee is free to decide whether or not to join the union.

The employer requires the trade union’s consent for a notice or immediate cancellation of employment of a member of a trade union body during their office term or during the period of one year after its termination. Such a notice or immediate cancellation may be invalid without such consent. Consent is presumed to have been granted if the trade union did not refuse to grant it within 15 days from the date on which it was requested by the employer. In case the trade union refuses to give consent, the employer can apply to the Court for consent.

Tasks and Obligations of Representatives

Trade unions are created to promote the labour, economic, political, social and other interests of their members. They focus primarily on improving working conditions, ensuring work safety, fair remuneration, and strengthening mutually open relations between both parties. Unions have the option of entering into collective agreements or declaring an industrial action.

Employees’ Representation in Management

Employees in management can also become members of a trade union.

Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies

There can be 3 to 15 members of a work council and a maximum of 1 health and safety representative for each 10 employees and they have to be elected by the employees. Every employee has the right to appoint his/her preferred candidate. The employer shall announce the elections on the basis of a written proposal signed by at least one third of the employer’s employees in an employment law relationship not later than three months from the date of delivery of the proposal. Further, the elections are organised by an election committee established for this purpose (3-9 employees). The term of office of the elected employees is 3 years. The same applies to health and safety representatives.

The work council helps with employees’ right to information and consultation. Through the representative for health and safety, the right to information and consultation is ensured, but only in the field of safety and health protection at work and the representatives participation in solving health and safety issues. Works council members and health and safety representatives have limited rights compared to a trade union, e.g. they may not enter into a collective bargaining agreement. Such representatives also have less protection than the members of the body of a trade union.

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