for implementing a European Directive on employment law with both the
Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.
consulted on management decisions affecting their future. These could
include: employment prospects changes in work organisation or
contractual relations, including redundancies and transfers economic
prospects for their industry
Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt said:
'I want these changes to lead to a 'no surprises' culture at work
where employers and employees discuss common ground and find
solutions to mutual problems. I want to see an end to the climate
where people only hear about job losses from the media, over their
'We have reached this agreement with the CBI and TUC through
constructive dialogue and discussion. It's exactly the spirit in
which we all want new rules on information and consultation to
operate in workplaces across Britain.'
CBI director general Digby Jones said:
'The government has made sense of a poor piece of EU legislation. It
has protected good consultation, which matters so much to employers
and employees. It has also avoided overly rigid rules and damaging
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said:
'Information and consultation rights are good for both employees and
business. These proposals are all about building trust, respect and
partnership in the workplace, a crucial ingredient in closing the
UK's productivity gap.'
The European Information and Consultation Directive takes effect for
firms with 150 employees or more in 2005, those with 100 or more in
2007, and those with 50 or more in 2008.
1. The agreed framework for implementing the directive published
today deliberately avoids riding roughshod over existing arrangements
between employers and employees and takes account of the varied
nature of existing UK arrangements by:
- facilitating voluntary agreements, rather than laying down
detailed rules that apply to everyone
- allowing pre-existing agreements that have both workforce and
employer approval to continue
- and ensuring that arrangements agreed with the workforce cannot be
overturned by a small minority of employees
2. Employees will be able to request information and consultation
arrangements from their employer with a petition from 10% of the
workforce. There would then be a period of time for negotiating a
voluntary agreement. But where there are already arrangements in
place that have been agreed with employees, the employer may ballot
the workforce to see if they endorse the request for new arrangement
and only if at least 40% of employees endorse the request for new
arrangements would the existing ones have to be changed.
3. Organisations will be able to agree with their employees the
information and consultation arrangements that best suit their needs
and circumstances. Where no agreement is reached by negotiation,
standard provisions would apply, based on the requirements in the
4. Enforcement of the provisions will be by a range of bodies such as
the Central Arbitration Committee, employment tribunals and the civil
courts. Sanctions for companies who break the rules will involve a
mix of remedies based on specific performance orders and financial
penalties of up to £75K depending on the size of the firm and other
5. The consultation document High Performing Workplaces: Informing
and consulting employees is available here.
The consultation closes on 7 November 2003.
6. The DTI is also tod ay publishing a Discussion paper on the UK
experience of European Works Councils. The Directive applies to
undertakings with at least 1000 employees across the member states of
the European Economic Area and at least 150 employees in each of two or
more of those member states.
The European Commission is reviewing the European Works Council
Directive at the end of the year.