French-style consultation laws should be viewed as opportunity

We read with interest the article by Mike Berry (‘French-style staff powers loom as Brussels barges in’, Personnel Today, 1 April) in which he writes: “UK employers are being threatened with French-style staff consultation laws as part of an EU review into employment directives”.


The thought of ‘being threatened with French-style staff consultation laws’ conjures up an image of the French Revolution, with any employer that does not comply being summarily dispatched to Madame Guillotine or, at the very least, facing a hefty fine from the Central Arbitration Committee.


This could be perceived as yet another case of Brussels interfering in domestic matters, or an attempt by UK employers to cherry pick their way through another piece of European legislation.


One of the growing issues facing industrial relations and HR management in the UK, however, is how to actually deliver effective employee engagement. And it is It is widely accepted that any organisation able to gain commitment from its workforce is more capable of adapting to change and achieving the best outcomes for staff and the business.


The old ‘them and us’ adversarial approach can have no place in modern industrial relations if we are to enjoy acceptable and decent ways of working together for the common good – that is, as successful and thriving businesses with engaged and motivated staff.


So let’s not feel threatened by a legislation that should, in reality, enable a company to manage change more effectively than ever. Given the progress we have already made in partnership working, the UK should be leading the modern industrial relations agenda in Europe, rather than allowing our notable lack of employment protection laws to embarass us further still.


Jeff Kelly, director, Partnership Institute

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