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Friday, 12 April 2024 10:03

Employee Consultation

Employers can occasionally find themselves compelled to make significant changes to the employment terms of their staff or need to make a shift in practices to enable to continued smooth running of the business. Some more significant changes may require the business to initiate a restructure that leads to redundancies.

Some decisions can be very difficult and are rarely taken lightly. They can affect both the livelihoods of employees and the overall organisational framework. However, an element of such changes that cannot be overlooked and must be carried out fairly and properly is the employee consultation.

Under UK employment law, employers are required to consult with employees before implementing significant changes to their terms of employment or proceeding with redundancies. This is a legal mandate to ensure that employees are not left in the dark about decisions affecting their livelihoods.

From a moral standpoint, it reflects an employer's commitment to transparency and ethical conduct, acknowledging the value and dignity of every employee. The overarching term to remember during any consultation is that it must be “meaningful”.

Examples of changes to employment terms that would require consultation might be:

  • The company wants to change the start and end of the holiday year, perhaps to fall in line with its financial year or ensure different parts of the business have the same holiday year.
  • The employer wants to change the day of the month that it pays its employees in order to align cashflow with sales receipts.
  • The businesses wants to initiate, remove or change a shift pattern to meet rising or falling demand or to make it more cost efficient; by using cheaper night time electricity rates for example.

Beyond the immediate impact, how these changes are implemented can have lasting implications for the business. The consultation period offers a platform for open dialogue, allowing employees to express concerns, suggest alternatives, and prepare for the impending changes.

Genuine consultation involves more than merely informing employees of decided changes; it requires a meaningful exchange of views and a real consideration of employee feedback. This process helps in mitigating the impact of changes, identifying unforeseen issues, and fostering a sense of involvement among employees. It demonstrates an employer's respect for their workforce and contributes to maintaining morale and trust during turbulent times.

Where redundancies are concerned, there are rules to how long the consultation period should take depending upon the number of jobs put at risk. When 20 or more redundancies are proposed then collective redundancy rules apply and a representative should be appointed to speak and act on the employees behalf. This can be either an elected employee or a trade union representative.

There’s no upper time limit for how long the period of consultation should be, but the minimums are:

  • 20 to 99 redundancies - the consultation must start at least 30 days before any dismissals take effect
  • 100 or more redundancies - the consultation must start at least 45 days before any dismissals take effect

Whilst there are no statutory time frames for 19 or less redundancies, we should default to our meaningful position and expect the process to take two to three weeks.

Failure to provide a proper consultation period can lead to significant legal and reputational risks. Employees who feel aggrieved by the lack of consultation can bring claims against their employer, leading to legal costs, compensation payments, and potentially, tribunal cases. Such disputes not only drain financial resources but also damage the employer's reputation, affecting their ability to attract and retain talent in the future.

Moreover, bypassing the consultation or undertaking it in a lazy or meaningless way can exacerbate the negative impact on employee morale and engagement. The resulting mistrust and dissatisfaction can decrease productivity, increase turnover rates, and tarnish the overall workplace atmosphere and reputation; thus hindering the organisation's potential for future recovery.

The consultation process is critical for maintaining employer-employee relationships, especially during times of significant change. By approaching the matter with the seriousness it warrants, employers can ensure legal compliance, uphold moral obligations, and manage the potential impacts on their workforce and business with empathy and responsibility.

The benefits of a pro-active approach include fostering a resilient and committed workforce capable of facing challenges together. In the end, consultation is not just a legal formality; properly utilised it is a strategic asset that can shape the future of any organisation, steering it towards a path of mutual respect, understanding, and long-term success.

We’re here to support with change and with managing the relationships between employers and employees. Get in touch for help and advice on 01452 331331 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  

Read 697 times Last modified on Friday, 12 April 2024 10:09

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