Brainfood: Workplace rights - Continental drift

Companies with operations in more than one EU state can now form a Societas Europaea (SE).

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail:employment@lewissilkin.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

That's Latin for 'European company'. An SE allows businesses to operate on an EU-wide basis, subject to a single set of Community rules, so avoiding much of the hassle of coping with widely divergent national legal systems across the continent. It's only 18 months since the relevant instrument - the European Company Statute - came into force and few companies have yet made the transition to SE status. But multinationals will increasingly be exploring the option as the pace of European economic integration accelerates. Global insurer Allianz is the best-known trailblazer so far, having announced plans to create a European company registered in Germany last autumn. A deterrent for some firms might be the extensive requirements for employee participation potentially required in an SE, including worker involvement in top-level decision-making. No big deal in Germany, where the long-standing system of co-determination allows employees to elect representatives to sit on the boards of large corporations. But managements in countries with more laissez-faire traditions of staff participation, such as the UK, will perhaps understandably be nervous.

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