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GOVERNMENT AGREES FRAMEWORK ON INFORMATION & CONSULTATION WITH BUSINESS AND UNIONS

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The Department of Trade and Industry today announced new plans for improved information and consultation in the wor...
The Department of Trade and Industry today announced new plans for improved information and consultation in the workplace. The government has agreed a framework

for implementing a European Directive on employment law with both the

Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.

The new plans mean employees have the chance to be informed and

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

breakfasts.

'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

one-size-fits-all solutions.'

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.

Notes

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

Directive.

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

factors.

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.

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