Firms need to plan for consultation lawOn 16 Apr 2002 in Personnel Today Full compliance with the Information and ConsultationDirective is not due until 2005. Rather than putting it on the back burner,employers need to start planning to deliver the right solutionAt long last, the Information and Consultation Directive is finalised.Despite being resisted by successive British governments for 25 years, it wassneaked through in February at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers. The Government has won special arrangements and the directive will not applyfully in Britain until 2008 – even big companies will not have to comply until2005. But beware of placing it in your pending tray with the intention of yoursuccessor having to deal with it – this is the biggest development in employeerelations for a generation. Employers need to plan the best course to compliance. You can be sure thatthe trade unions are already doing so, with the directive offeringopportunities and challenges for them. It could open the door for them to fullrecognition in thousands of workplaces; or employers could use it imaginativelyto create the best employee involvement system for their own organisation,which may or may not include union involvement. What emerges from the road shows that law firm Eversheds is currentlyrunning is there is no simple ‘right’ decision for all businesses. Employersmust weigh up a number of factors – the directive deadlines, its terms, thelikely shape of UK regulations, what other employers are doing and how employeerelations are changing in their organisation. While it is important to start planning, it is also crucial not to rush toanswers. When the European Works Council Directive (EWC) came into force, manyemployers moved at once to negotiate deals, so as to escape the full rigours ofthe directive. In the small print of the new directive there is a similarprovision. But there are important differences employers must be aware of. The new directive is less prescriptive and it lacks the EWC law’s detailedblueprint of what must be put in place by those who fail to do their own deals.Sadly, that makes it more difficult to work out what you need to do to comply. The directive leaves many big issues for the Government to determine. Caninformation and consultation take place at an organisational level, or must itbe handled up the line at a UK level? Will you be able to make agreements that satisfy your obligations withnon-union employees or their representatives – like the ‘workforce agreements’that have featured in other recent legislation? What happens when employeesfail to show sufficient interest in taking up what the directive offers? Willbusinesses then be able to avoid making any changes to their current practices?On this and more the DTI will decide. Employers do not want to get their response wrong. The penalties for failureto comply will be ‘effective’ and ‘dissuasive’. The majority of workplaces inthe UK have no standing employee representative arrangements – unlike theircontinental counterparts. This will have to change with companies with as fewas 50 employees in the whole of the UK, or just 20 at one establishment, beingaffected. This directive will have a much wider impact than either the EuropeanWorks Council Directive or statutory recognition arrangements for trade unions.There are two steps that should be taken at this stage. First, managers needto understand the directive – which is a sorry example of Euro-drafting – andwhat requirements are likely to flow from it. Second, you then need to performan option appraisal to assess the best route forward for the business. Thisneeds to be done before the end of this year, so you have time to negotiate theright deal for your business. By Robbie Gilbert, a consultant in the HR group at law firm Eversheds andchief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Statute and Practice Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.