In an ever-changing work environment, it's vital that employees and employers appreciate their legal obligations to one another. These obligations are only getting more extensive, with a number of bills currently passing through parliament that will further develop the employment landscape.
Here is a short overview of some of the situations in which consultation is required.
When a business is transferred or parts of it are outsourced or insourced, the Transfer of Undertakings or TUPE Regulations 2006 come into play. The regulations protect the employment rights of affected employees and ensure that they are informed in advance of a relevant transfer.
Where employees will be affected by the transfer or by measures taken in connection with it, they must also be consulted during the process. Failure to comply can result in penalties, including compensation orders of up to 13 weeks' gross, uncapped pay per employee.
Changes in pension arrangements are also subject to consultation requirements under the Pension Consultation Regulations 2006.
Employers with 50 or more employees must consult affected employees before implementing certain changes. While non-compliance doesn't invalidate the change, financial penalties of up to £50,000 can be imposed.
Health and safety
Health and safety matters are crucial in any workplace.
Under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977, a recognised trade union can appoint safety representatives to consult with the employer on health and safety issues.
Where a union is not recognised, the Health & Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 require the employer to consult directly with the employees or their elected representatives.
Collective consultation is an important aspect of employee representation in the UK. Under the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004, implementing a European directive, employees can initiate negotiations for a structured agreement to keep them informed and involved in decision-making.
A recent report shows that over half of organisations now have representative arrangements, although they vary in size across sectors and companies.
An agreement, which needs to be approved by at least half of the employees, will define the areas on which the employer must consult with its employees. The regulations require the parties to work together in a spirit of co-operation and with due regard for their reciprocal rights and obligations, taking into account the interests of both parties. If the agreement is breached, a complaint can be made to the Central Arbitration Committee, potentially resulting in orders for compliance and penalties.
The information provided here is a general overview, and you should take legal advice on your specific circumstances.
The Employment Team at Hunters would be happy to speak with you about any of the above matters. We can help you navigate these complex regulations and guide you through workplace changes. We can help you understand your rights, ensure compliance with the law, and protect your interests.