Under new Information and Consultation Regulations, organisations employing more than 50 staff must put systems in place to allow meaningful dialogue to take place between managers and staff, providing enough staff request them.
The existing rights for recognised unions to be informed and consulted will continue to apply.
Which workplaces are affected?
The regulations were phased in over four years, for organisations:
with at least 150 employees from April 2005
with at least 100 from April 2007
with at least 50 from April 2008.
Groups of employees need to trigger negotiations with employees on consultation; they will not take place automatically. The regulations make a clear distinction between where there are pre-existing information and consultation agreements and where there are not.
If no arrangements are currently in place, negotiations can be trigged if a written request is made by 10 per cent of employees (subject to a minimum number of 15 employees).
If information and consultation agreements are already in place, it is more difficult to initiate new negotiations under the regulations. In this case, a written request must still be made by at least 10 per cent of employees in the undertaking. However, if fewer than 40 per cent of employees make this request, the employer can conduct a secret ballot and refuse to enter new negotiations if the request is not endorsed by the majority.
Requesting negotiation through arbitration
Requests for negotiations on information and consultation arrangements do not have to be sent directly to the employer. Where employees are worried about victimisation, requests can be made anonymously via the Central Arbitration Committee, a government body which oversees collective workplace negotiations under law.
The CAC will notify the employer that a request has been made, and ask for information from the employer to verify the numbers of employees in the undertaking and that the required number have made the request.
Where a valid request is made, the employer will be obliged to enter into negotiations within one month with employee representatives elected or appointed by the workforce over an agreement on information and consultation arrangements within the undertaking.
Where a valid request for information and consultation rights has been made an employer must:
enter into negotiations within a month
make arrangements for the employees to elect or appoint negotiating representatives, such as union representatives
conclude negotiations within six months, unless both sides agree to an extension.
When finalised, employee information and consultation agreement must:
be in writing
cover all employees in the undertaking
set out when employees are to be informed and consulted
provide for information and consultation via appointed/elected representatives or directly with the employees.
If an agreement is reached through negotiation, it must either be signed by all the negotiating representatives or by a majority of them.
If negotiations fail
If agreement is not reached through negotiation within six months or within an agreed extended period, the standard minimum information and consultation provisions will apply. This means that information and consultation representative should be elected for every 50 employees, and kept informed by the employer on the recent and probable future development of the organisations' activities and economic situation.
Any information "must be given at such time, in such fashion and with such content as to enable, in particular, the information and consultation representatives to conduct an adequate study and where necessary, to prepare for consultation".
Need further advice?
Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.