Works council training: German Federal Labor Court decides on the assumption of costs for classroom training

  • 03/07/2024
  • Reading time 3 Minutes

Pursuant to Art. 40 (1) BetrVG (German Works Constitution Act), the works council is entitled to reimbursement of the costs incurred in connection with the works council member’s participation in a training session pursuant to Art. 37 (6) BetrVG. However, the knowledge obtained must be necessary.

On February 7, 2024, the German Federal Labor Court (“BAG”) ruled (7 ABR 8/23) that accommodation and catering costs for an external classroom seminar must also be borne by the employer if the same training provider offers a webinar with the same content.

The BAG’s decision was based upon the following facts:

The employer is an airline with a collective agreement providing for cabin staff representation, to whose rights the German Works Constitution Act’s provisions apply accordingly. 
The personnel representation wanted to send two of its members, being domiciled in Düsseldorf and Cologne, respectively, to a basic training in Binz on the island of Rügen. Due to the associated high travel and accommodation costs, the employer suggested attending such training with a training organizer located closer to the personnel representation members’ homes or, as an alternative, attending a webinar with the same provider.

Thereupon, the staff representation decided sending its two members, for the period from August 24, 2021 to August 27, 2021, not to Binz but to Potsdam where they attended the training course "Commercial Constitutional Law Part I".

The employer paid the training costs incurred for both participants. However, it refused to also bear the accommodation and catering costs on the grounds that the staff representation’s members could also have attended the webinar offered by the same provider at the same time and with the same content. Travel costs from Düsseldorf or Cologne to Berlin were not incurred, as the staff council members traveled in vacant seats on the employer’s aircraft. The staff representation had this conduct reviewed before the labor courts.

Both the lower court and the Düsseldorf Regional Labor Court upheld the personnel representation’s view in November 2022. The BAG also ruled in favor of the personnel representation. The cost incurred in the course of a training were to be borne by the employer if the knowledge obtained in such training was necessary. This was undisputed in the present case. The works council’s – or in the present case the staff council’s – decision as to which trainings its members should attend is subject to a “certain discretionary scope”. For example, the type of training, the training provider and the training format can be selected. The choice is not restricted simply because a classroom training incurs higher costs due to travel, accommodation and meals for the works council members. The BAG did not object the staff representation’s view according to which classroom training provided for better results, thus justifying the higher costs.

Practical advice

Despite this decision, employers should first check the necessity of a training when being requested to bear the training costs. In addition, more cost-effective alternatives should be proposed to the works council, together with a request to keep an eye on the training costs.

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Author of this article

Christine Ostwald


Attorney-at-Law (Rechtsanwältin), Specialist Lawyer in Labor Law

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