- 28 Oct 2020
The national social partners have reached agreement to introduce a number of easings so that the organisation of the social elections can run as smoothly and safely as possible during the Covid‑19 pandemic. These easings have still to be legally enshrined. The Bill will be voted on in the federal parliament shortly. We will, of course, keep you informed. The social partners have also confirmed that the social elections will in any case take place in the period from 16 up to and including 29 November 2020.
The national social partners have just reached agreement on a number of easings in the elections procedure so that they can take place as smoothly and safely as possible in the foreseen period from 16 up to and including 29 November 2020. These changes will soon be confirmed in law. Here we list the easings that have been announced:
1. Electronic voting: extension of the deadline to conclude an agreement
Normally, you could as an employer conclude an agreement with the trade unions that have put forward candidates to organise electronic voting up to and including day X+56 (which fell between 13 and 26 October 2020, depending on your new day Y). The social partners have now agreed to extend this deadline. The exact deadline is not mentioned, but of course this agreement must be reached before you need to hand over or send the convening notices (so, before your day X+80).
The written agreement must include confirmation of the category(ies) of employees for which electronic voting will be used. Moreover, the agreement should cover all other substantial aspects of electronic voting, in particular a description of the “usual workplace” (if applicable), the special conditions to guarantee the secrecy of the vote, the arrangements for ensuring the proper functioning of the polling station and the means of identifying voters.
2. Voting by letter
The deadline to conclude an agreement in order to organise voting by letter has also been extended. The exact deadline for the agreement has not been mentioned, but of course this agreement must be reached before you need to hand over or send the convening notices (so, before your day X+80). This written agreement must be concluded with all organisations that have put forward candidates.
For which situations?
The Act originally provided that voting by letter was only possible in the following four situations:
- in case of a significant spread of the personnel, which also covers the current Corona telework;
- in case of suspension of the execution of the employment contract (e.g., because of illness);
- in case of night work, provided that certain conditions are met;
- when the employees are not employed during the opening hours of the polling station (e.g., part-time employees).
Now, the social partners have agreed to make voting by letter also possible for employees who are present in the company on the day of the voting, but for whom physical voting on site cannot be safely organised due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Easing the invitation of the voters
You must hand over the convening notice and ballot papers against receipt to the voters who vote by letter. When they are not present in the company at the time the letters are distributed, you must send the invitation by registered mail. Now, the agreement of the social partners stipulates that the ballot papers, together with the convening notice, can be delivered to the voter by ordinary priority mail. A registered mail is therefore no longer required. The witnesses have the right to supervise that the letters are correctly sent.
Extension of the deadline for counting the votes
You may agree with the trade unions that have put forward candidates that the ballot papers by letter arriving up to maximum five days after the vote has closed will still be included in the votes to be counted. This means that the counting of votes is postponed.
3. Adaptation of the number of polling stations and the distribution of the voters
The agreement of the social partners also states that, if you make use of the possibility to conclude new agreements on voting by letter or electronic remote voting, you can also make agreements to adjust the number of polling stations and the distribution of the voters among polling stations.
If you wish to organise electronic voting or voting by letter in your company, you are given a little more time to conclude an agreement on this with the trade unions that have put forward candidates. You can also conclude an agreement on an extension of the period during which the votes by letter must arrive at the polling stations. The invitation of the voters is also possible in a simplified manner.
We will inform you as soon as these easings are confirmed by law. In the meantime, you can already conclude these agreements, so that everything can be arranged safely and on time.