The forthcoming European law on information and consultation is going to
create a revolution in employee relations in the UK, according to the head of
HR legal at law firm DLA.
From 2005, large employers will have to consult with staff before making any
decision that affects employment levels or the structure of how work is
David Bradley warned delegates that employers will not be able to pay lip
service to the new legislation, with it including a requirement to provide
staff representatives with detailed information over any business change.
There is also an obligation to perform ‘effective’ consultation, where the
aim is to reach agreement. It also has to be ‘timely’ and involve senior
management. Bradley believes that it will prompt many firms to set up works
councils. "This is going to change the way we communicate with employees
forever," he said.
Punishment for breaches of the new law are likely to be based on existing
European Works Council legislation, which can lead to fines of up to £85,000.
At the Legal Update in Euroland seminar, delegates were told there will be
an exclusion clause with employers not having to consult if it would create
‘serious prejudice’ against the organisation. "There are going to be a lot
of big fights over what prejudice really is," said Bradley.
He warned that the TUC is campaigning for injunctive relief to be included
in the Government’s interpretation of the directive, which would allow unions
to stop firms’ decision-making processes in their tracks and force them to
consult further with the workforce.