Substantial fines for employers ignoring staff consultation laws

Employers that ignore their obligations under the Information and Consultation Regulations are risking substantial fines as trade unions ramp up the pressure, according to an employee consultation expert.

The warning comes after publishing giant Macmillan was fined £55,000 by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) for its “significant failure” in not implementing the regulations – the first case of its kind.

Trade union Unite had been pressing the company to put the regulations into practice, which would allow Macmillan’s 1,300 staff to be consulted about management decisions that affect them.

The publisher had previously ignored two rulings by the Central Arbitration Committee, which instruc­ted the company to comply with the regulations, introduced in 2004.

Philip Sack, director of policy at the European Study Group, which specialises in the regulations, said employers had to start taking the legislation seriously.

The merger of Amicus and the Transport and General Workers’ Union to form Unite meant unions could now devote more resources to target employers and insist on new arrangements being introduced, he said.

James Richardson, Macmillan’s group personnel director, refused to comment on the case. But in a statement, the company said: “We obviously accept the ruling of the EAT, and are in the process of endeavouring to consult with interested parties in order to establish a national information and consultation body.”

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