The need to legislate was prompted by the June 1994 judgements of the European court of justice on the UK's implementation of the directives on acquired rights and collective redundancies.
The court ruled that in implementing provisions of these directives relating to consultation of employees, it was not sufficient to consult only where there were recognised trade unions.
At present employers are required to consult safety representatives appointed by any trade unions they recognise. The new regulations would top this up by extending consultation to any employees who are not members of a group covered by trade union safety representatives.
As well as general requirements to consult there would be specific requirements for consultation on the following:
- the introduction of any measure at the workplace which may substantially affect the health and safety of employees
- arrangements for appointing or nominating competent persons to assist the employer to apply the provisions of health and safety law and implement procedures for the evacuation of workers in the event of an emergency
- any health and safety information the employer must provide to employees under health and safety law
- the planning and organisation of any health and safety training the employer must provide to employees under health and safety law
- the health and safety consequences for employees of the introduction (including planning for the introduction) of new technologies into the workplace
Where the employer chooses to consult elected representatives, they must be given time off with pay while being trained or carrying out their duties. Employees would be protected against victimisation for standing for election or otherwise taking part in consultations.
These rights and protections would be enforced via an industrial tribunal, health and safety inspectors would enforce the rest of the regulations.
A provisional cost benefit assessment is included and concludes that the benefits will outweigh the costs of the proposals.
Comments on the proposals should be sent to: Dr Jeanie Cruickshank, Employee Consultation Unit, Strategy and General Division, Health and Safety Executive, Room 720, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS, by 16 February 1996.
It is expected that the new regulations would come into force in the second half of 1996.
'Draft proposals for health and safety consultation with employees regulations and guidance' CD96, is available free of charge from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 6FS (tel 01787 881165 or fax 01787 313995).
The regulations would be made under the European Communities Act, as they implement provisionsof the EC Health and Safety Framework Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, and there are no relevant powers under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. However, the provisions of HSWA would apply to these regulations once they come into force.