Be aware

01 April 2005
Be aware

Not to worry you, but you may be running out of time on this one. If your business employs 150 people or more, you have until 6 April 2005 to consider your position regarding formal employee consultation and the involvement of workers in key decisions affecting your business.

If you have fewer than 150 but more than 50 employees, you will still need to address the issue but you've got a bit more time - up to 2007 if you employ more than 100 staff, and 2008 if more than 50.

The law we are talking about, of course, is the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2003, and the first step is to clarify your headcount figures.

If the regulations apply to you, there are several options:

You can negotiate a voluntary information and consultation agree-ment before April 2005 - existing union recognition agreements will count as long as they cover all employees, are in writing and have been approved by all employees.

If the employees wanted to renegotiate such an agreement, they would need the support of 40% of the workforce.

You can negotiate an information and consultation agreement with employee representatives after April 2005 - if 10% of the workforce request an agreement, you must negotiate the terms with elected representatives within six months. If terms cannot be agreed, the default provisions will apply.

You can allow the default provisions in the regulations to apply - information must be given at such time, in such fashion and with sufficient content that the representatives can study it and prepare for consultation. Brief and generic management reports will not be enough. The aim of the consultation must be to reach agreement.

Or you can wait and hope that no request is made. Although there is no requirement to act until employees make a request, there can be advantages in negotiating such arrangements at an early stage.
In particular, you will avoid the pressure of a time limit; generate goodwill with staff by being proactive; increase the threshold vote for support to bring in changes from 10% to 40%; limit the scope for union involvement; and rationalise existing information and consultation arrangements.

That's not to say that negotiating voluntary arrangements now will be appropriate in all circumstances and for all employers. Disadvantages include, for instance, the fact that an employer's workforce in other EU jurisdictions may make requests for parallel arrangements.

You can contact Alexandra Davidson on : 020 7760 1000

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