The EPOC Survey

epoc logoThe Foundation carried out a postal survey of European management in ten EU countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom) in order to examine the extent of direct participation, its economic and social effects, and also to measure the degree of influence by employees on work organisation and work environment.


  • respondents were workplace general managers or the manager he/she felt was the most appropriate;
  • the focus was the workplace's largest occupational group;
  • the size threshold was 25 employees in the case of the smaller countries and 50 in the case of the larger;
  • the total number of respondents was almost 5,800;
  • the overall response rate for the ten countries was almost 18 per cent - with a range between 9 per cent (Spain) and 39 per cent (Ireland).

Key results

  • Services accounted for the greater proportion of workplaces (57%), followed by industry (36%) and construction (7%).
  • Direct participation was more likely in workplaces with "white collar" occupations, task complexity, team activity, high qualification and internal training.
  • Productivity and quality of working life concerns far out-ranked other motives in all countries in the decision to introduce direct participation.
  • All forms of direct participation were considered to have a strong impact on economic performance - in the case of quality 9 out of 10 respondents reported a strong impact.
  • Around a third of respondents reported a reduction in absenteeism and sickness.
  • The introduction of direct participation was accompanied by a reduction in the number of employees and managers in around a third of workplaces.
  • There were more likely to be reductions in employment in workplaces without direct participation than workplace with direct participation.
  • There was a high level of employee representative involvement in the introduction of direct participation: 30% of the workplaces reported extensive negotiations/joint decision making; only 13% did not involve their representatives.
  • One fifth of managers regarded the involvement of representatives as "very useful" and more than two thirds found it "useful".
  • The more employees were informed and consulted, the greater the economic effects.
  • Workplaces which had no participative culture were significantly out performed by workplaces which had participation.
  • High qualification enhanced the economic benefits of direct participation - especially the ability to achieve cost reductions.
  • Remuneration systems in workplaces with direct participation tended to be more complex than those without - pay for skills and qualification was particularly prevalent in workplaces with direct participation.