Employees ignorant of consultation revolution


Many employees are more likely to learn of company redundancies through hearsay or the media than from their employer, as new research reveals that three-quarters of employees are not aware of new rights to be consulted on major employment issues in the workplace.

More than three-quarters (76%) of the 790 respondents who took part in the YouGov poll for business adviser Croner also said that they would like to have the opportunity to express an opinion about major issues surrounding their employment and the company in which they work.

Andrew Auld, HR development manager at Croner, believes employers aren’t doing enough to make staff aware of their new legal right to be involved in significant workplace changes. They could soon be caught out by the impending Information and Consultation legislation, due 6 April, and facing fines of up to £75,000.

"Even some of the largest corporates have been criticised for failing to communicate properly with employees on issues as serious as redundancy. But the new Information & Consultation law means they now have a legal right to collectively demand to be involved in such decisions," he said.

Auld added that lack of communication within organisations can create a boss/worker divide, and that by setting best practice internal communications standards, companies can actually enhance employees’ commitment and support of the business – and crucially, help meet the requirements of the new legislation.

The new law means that, in certain circumstances, companies will be legally required to communicate with their employees on significant employment issues, such as redundancies or restructuring.

But the research suggests that most organisations have a long way to go before they meet its requirements.

"The vast majority of employees want the opportunity to air their views," Ault said. "Employers are best advised to set up proactive channels of communication whereby staff have an opportunity to collectively express opinions on major company developments, and through which employers can communicate with them.

And he warned that allowing TV or radio to take the place of good HR practice could see the employer facing fines, or having their name dragged through the media mud – with potential negative impact on their share price and reputation.

After 6 April, companies with 150 or more employees must act upon an employee request to be informed and consulted on major employment issues.

The request needs to be made by at least ten percent of employees in the organisation (subject to a minimum of 15 employees and a maximum of 2,500 employees). The legislation will include companies with 100 or more employees in April 2007, and those with 50 or more employees in April 2008.

“From a best practice point of view, it makes good business sense that employers communicate with their staff. There is a strong argument to say that when employees feel involved they will be more productive and dedicated in their work, and more supportive and resilient even if redundancies need to be made," Ault added.

"Even though the legislation doesn’t yet cover smaller businesses, all employers should view it as an opportunity to put in place effective internal communications, which is a key characteristic of many of the UK’s best performing workplaces."