Phil Boucher finds out how some of the UK’s employers are responding to the new regulations on informing and consulting with employees
Head of industrial relations,
Royal Mail Group
Three years after the European Union agreed a new legal framework for informing and consulting employees, the UK will soon enter the first phase of implementing new information and consultation regulations.
We were already renegotiating our recognition and procedural agreements with both of our recognised trade unions, so rather than developing something specific to the information and consultation regulations, we have simply rolled up the policy within this.
The result has been what we call IR Frameworks, which basically details a variety of means for gaining strategic involvement that suits our company and meets our obligations under the regulations. The idea is to make sure everyone is covered by the framework as far as possible.
Through looking closely at the make-up of the Royal Mail we have identified a series of systematic forums that will meet with trade union representatives on a quarterly basis. They are designed to have two-way, strategic involvement and will be run throughout the business at all levels. This means our information and consultation needs will be met at group, business unit and workplace level.
At the same time, we have involved our non-union members through a process called Worktime Listening and Learning that enables anyone to have their say. So far, this has been 70% deployed within the business.
To deal with major issues we have developed a scheme called Talkabout, which uses special packs to communicate specific themes. This touches on issues ranging from pay to business standards, dealing with competition and attendance. If something is high-profile, this enables us to roll out an information and consultation strategy across the board.
We feel this approach has put us in good shape, but like anything new, we will be reviewing and reflecting over the next couple of months. It is basically a case of seeing how it pans out and looking at other firms to see how they have approached the problem and maybe tweaking a few things here and there.
Head of employee relations, KPMG
Two years ago, KPMG set up an Employee Business Forum as a sign of its strong commitment to open and honest communication with all employees about the key issues for the business.
It is designed to engage our people in discussions about issues relevant to them and the business, in the hope that it will focus attention on key themes for the firm. In many ways the idea is simply to create a way of harnessing the ideas and creativity of our people.
The forum is chaired by John Griffith-Jones, our UK chief executive officer, and has other management representation plus 18 employee members.
We have found the forum to be an effective means of encouraging dialogue between management and employees, which has often influenced decisions taken by the firm.
To prepare for the forthcoming regulations, we have reviewed our existing terms of reference, together with the employee members, and some minor adjustments are under discussion. Despite this, we don’t anticipate any major changes as our existing policies already meet up with most of the new regulations.
HR leader for the UK, Shell
We believe that engaging employees through effective information and consultation adds value to the business, and that an effective strategy involves a variety of approaches tailored to meet the diverse range of people within the organisation.
To do this effectively, Shell businesses in the UK have developed a variety of employee information and consultation mechanisms that include websites, magazines, line briefings, town hall meetings, focus groups, attitude surveys and employee forums. Assuming these arrangements continue to meet business and employee needs, we do not envisage that the new regulations will significantly affect us.
Despite this, we have carefully studied the new regulations and reviewed our existing arrangements to ensure they meet the current and future needs of the business and our employees. We are also in the process of developing further guidance on employee information and consultation for our line managers.
I believe the new regulations will be a force for good and promote greater focus on employee information and consultation among UK employers. They also clearly define the process by which employees who are dissatisfied with their employer’s current arrangements can kick off a process to change them. And that has to be good for any firm, as it will stop people from sweeping issues under the carpet and bring everything into the open.”
Head of HR at recruitment firm Berkeley Scott Group
We have informal communication processes in place and are reviewing them to see if we can formalise things to comply with the new regulations. But at the same time we don’t want to go into the default position that the regulations seem to ask for, as we don’t think that’s necessarily right for us.
To consult effectively you need to have a balanced group of people attending the same meetings so that information from all groups within the company is shared equally. Within Berkeley Scott this includes managers, general support staff, team members – people from all sections and levels of the company.
In many ways, we are quite lucky as this level of communication has always been part of the company’s remit. I think it ensures that things are upfront and stops issues from stewing away until they become a real problem. Without consultation, they might otherwise not be known about.
At the moment we have a monthly communications meeting where people from the different functions get together and generally talk about any issues that they think are important. It is unlikely that this will change too much, but within the next couple of months we hope to have completed our review to see what tweaks we should make. As we think we’ve got enough consultation processes in place, it is unlikely we will develop anything new.
The main difference is likely to be a slight formalisation of the processes. But even then the word ‘formalise’ is probably a bit too strong, as it’s more a case of explaining what we already do in writing than creating a series of stringent rules.