HR caught in crossfire on staff consultation

Government plans to review redundancy laws meet with
criticism from profession

Moves
to put pressure on companies to consult with staff before announcing
redundancies have received a cool reception from HR directors.

Trade
and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers revealed plans to review UK arrangements
affecting collective redundancies to the House of Commons.

Byers
said the CBI and the TUC will be asked to comment on current laws and whether
more should be done to promote effective consultation with employees.

But
HR directors pointed to the problems caused by global decisions that demand
significant restructuring at short notice.

Bruce
Warman, personnel director at Vauxhall, which has announced 2,000 redundancies
following its decision to close its Luton plant, said employers face a
minefield of conflicting laws.

He
said. "There are different regulations in different countries which can
conflict." He explained that stock exchange rules in other countries,
including the US, clash with European Works Council rules on consultation –
leaving HR directors caught in the crossfire.

"The
reality of business is increasingly tough. This review may be an opportunity to
debate whether redundancies can be implemented in a more acceptable way,"
he said.

Mark
Childs, director of global compensation and benefits for Fidelity Investments,
said, "Most employers feel the current balance is about right. The
Government is feeling a two-way pull. It does not want to be surprised by
foreign companies announcing business closures. But it is under pressure from
domestic firms not to put them in a position where they have to consult
employers before they talk to investors."

By
Ben Willmott 

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