Meanings of Employers Association

Meanings of Employers Association

An employers’ association is an association of employers (i.e. entrepreneurs) to represent common interests. Internally, this includes the provision of information and support structures for the member companies and, externally, dealing with other participants in the economic and political structure, e.g. the trade unions.

Employers’ associations are usually organized in the legal form of an association. Since branch-specific issues are often of particular importance in the joint representation of interests, many associations join forces within the same branches and business areas.

For example, various employers’ associations in the metal and electrical industry are organized in the Gesamtmetall association. Other examples are the BAV Chemie or the German Insurance Association. There are also associations based on geographical aspects, such as regional or state associations. Another common denominator can be the size of the company, as is the case, for example, in special SME associations.

The most important tasks of an employers’ association

Collective bargaining with the trade unions

This is one of the central areas of responsibility. According to the principle of collective bargaining autonomy, employers and employees have the right to negotiate their collective agreements on their own responsibility without the involvement of the state. The employers ‘side is represented here by their associations, the employees’ side by the trade unions. Due to the conflicting interests of both parties, the negotiations are often tough and are in the media interest.

Advice and information for member companies

According to, individual companies often do not have the capacity to keep a comprehensive eye on the complex technical, legal and economic changes in their industry . The associations can help here by bundling know-how, developing concepts and providing information material. This can include in particular:

  • Advice on social, collective bargaining and labor market policy issues
  • Information service for legal or economic changes
  • Implementation of advanced and advanced training
  • Improvement of industrial relations and adaptation of working conditions
  • Forwarding of HR statistics or model works agreements
  • Legal assistance and legal representation

Public relations and lobbying

In their public relations work , associations not only inform experts, but also politics and the population about the importance of the economic activity of their branch or their member companies. Since some industries are viewed with skepticism, e.g. due to environmentally harmful production methods, public relations work tries to positively influence the image of the industry. Lobbying, on the other hand, tends to take place behind closed doors: business representatives try to expand their influence in contacts with representatives of politics.

The importance of associations in labor law

Collective bargaining law

Employers’ associations can act as collective bargaining partners. The function of the members as employers is decisive, but a minimum number or size is not required.
Exclusion criteria of an association for the tariff eligibility are:

  • Compulsory association: An association whose membership is compulsory due to public law is not eligible for tariffs.
  • Lack of freedom from opponents: An association is free from opponents if there is no financial or personal dependency or ties to social opponents (in this case employee associations, trade unions). Otherwise there is no tariff eligibility.

Works constitution law

The employer can call in a representative of his association as an advisor to certain bodies and meetings in which he takes part. This applies to works council meetings if the employer has been expressly invited or if the meeting takes place at his request. This still applies to works meetings in which the employer takes part.

Structure and organization

The organs

According to the usual structure of the association, the regular organs of the association are the general assembly and the board of directors . Central associations as umbrella organizations of several individual associations can also have a presidium. The board of directors can appoint one or more managing directors. They manage the day-to-day business in accordance with the articles of association and according to the power of attorney of the board and represent the association externally. This also applies to legal disputes.

Duties and Rights

The members, i.e. the individual companies, are usually obliged to pay contributions in order to maintain the association. Furthermore, they are bound to implement the negotiated resolutions (e.g. collective agreements) in their company.
Your rights consist in participating in these resolutions and in using the association’s own information and support services.

Types of Membership

In the standard case, the association members are bound by the agreed collective bargaining agreements in their own companies. An association can, however, also allow so-called OT memberships (“without collective bargaining agreement”). This is interesting for companies that only want to benefit from the services of the association, but do not want to enter into the collective agreement. In principle, this is permissible under association law if it is ensured that, in return, the OT members cannot influence the collective bargaining disputes. In terms of labor law, however, the practice is not undisputed.


Since membership in a workers’ association is voluntary, a company can also leave again. Details on leaving are regulated in accordance with the provisions of association law and the respective statutes of the association. Even after leaving the association, the company is still bound by the current collective agreement until its term ends. Afterwards there is the possibility of negotiating an individual company wage agreement in the company.

Employers’ Associations in Germany

The overall structure of the German employers’ associations comprises several organizational levels:

The highest umbrella organization for the entire German economy is the Federation of German Employers’ Associations. V. ( BDA ). She is responsible for all types of private or commercial business enterprises. According to the statutes, the respective president is at the head of the BDA. In total, the member associations bring about a million companies into the umbrella organization. The public sector is not a member of the BDA. Although it is the largest employer in Germany, it is made up of corporations under public law.

At the next lower organizational level, the state associations are direct members of the BDA. Every federal state has such a cross-industry association. Since Berlin and Brandenburg as well as Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have merged, there are a total of 14 state associations. These in turn belong to the respective regional associations.

In addition to the above-mentioned interdisciplinary associations, there are a large number of industry-specific associations. These branch associations at regional and state level are then combined again in the so-called federal technical umbrella organizations . The BDA roughly divides these around fifty professional associations at federal level into the following categories:

  • Services
  • Finance
  • Trade
  • Craft
  • Industry
  • Agriculture
  • Traffic / transport / logistics

The largest single federal technical umbrella organization is, for example, the general association of metal industrial employers’ associations, commonly known as “Gesamtmetall”.

Employers Association