Following publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 23 March 2002, the UK has three years to "adopt the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive".
The European Parliament and Council of Ministers ratified the EU Directive on Information and Consultation, which is also widely known as the National Works Council Directive on 5 and 18 February 2002 to “establish a general framework setting out minimum requirements for the right to information and consultation of employees in undertakings or establishments within the European Community".
The implication of this for employers in the UK is that for the first time employees will have the legal right to independent representation for the purposes of information and consultation, with or without the presence of a recognised union.
Employees will have the right to be informed and consulted on: the situation, structure and probable development of employment within the undertaking; measures envisaged that could pose a threat to employment, and decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation and contractual arrangements.
Britain had initially resisted the new directive as part of a blocking minority along with Germany, Ireland and Denmark on the basis that the directive was an unnecessary burden on business and interfered with domestic arrangements. However by early 2001 both Denmark and Germany agreed that they could no longer justify opposition to the directive and Britain was unable to block the measure, which was pushed through by qualified majority voting on 11 June 2001.
Once formally adopted later this year, this directive must be implemented by all undertakings in Britain with at least 150 employers by 2005. Subsequently all undertakings with at least 100 employees will have until 2007 and all those with 50 or more employees will have until 2008 to comply.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has already said that it will consult widely about the Directive's implementation. A discussion paper will be published later this year, followed by a formal consultation document in early 2003. A three or four month consultation period will then take place, after which the government intends to publish the regulations in early 2004, prior to taking effect in March 2005.
|For practical advice on the implications of this directive please read Sharing the challenge ahead: informing and consulting with your workforce. A guide to good practice, available from the IPA, 42 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AF, tel: 020 7354 8040, www.ipa-involve.com,email: [email protected]|