Talk to HR before altering consultation rules, minister

This week, in response to
widespread concern among HR professionals, Personnel Today has written an open
letter to Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers. We have taken this step
because we believe it is essential that HR specialists are consulted in the
review of employee consultation that Byers announced in January.

We are demanding that the
Government widens the talks to include HR because any new laws on consultation
that do not incorporate the expertise and experience of the profession will be
unworkable and could damage business performance and employee relations.

We are worried that the
Government is chiefly concerned with deflecting negative publicity over the
large-scale redundancies at Vauxhall and Corus. The fact that there are no
clear terms of reference or objectives raises the concern that the review will
be a politically motivated quick fix.

More importantly, Personnel
Today understands that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work in practice
and there are many situations where early consultation on issues such as
redundancy cannot be effected without a detrimental impact on employers and
staff.

If you support the objectives
or with to comment on them, contact us now at personneltoday@rbi.co.uk

Reaction from the profession

These HR directors support
Personnel Today’s open letter to Stephen Byers. Here are their views on the
issues of consulting staff:

Rob Ingram, HR director, Cap
Gemini Ernst & Young
 "It is crucial that companies
consult with employees or their representatives. But sometimes, it is necessary
to keep these matters private for commercial reasons. Byers must understand
that businesses should have a right to consult in a way that is appropriate to the
business, rather than one prescribed type of consultation."

Russell
McCallion, HR director, London Luton Airport

"There is a major role to play both in terms of strategy and
implementation. Good communication is essential. It is a great shame to have to
drop things on people. If there is effective communication between the employer
and employee and between employer and trade unions any performance issues which
affect the business should not be a surprise."

Pauline
Wyatt-Ingram, head of HR operations and development, CMS Cameron McKenna
"One has to take an enormous amount of care ñ there is always a
conflict between confidentiality and the need for consultation. HR has to
convince management that the concerns of the employees are paramount  ñ communication is the key to the whole
thing. But there are often stakeholders who are very anxious and their needs
can take priority."

Beverley
Shears, HR director, SouthWest Trains
"Best practice is to work with unions on the issues that affect the
future of the workforce. But the Government should be aware that factors in
industry can change very quickly and laws should take account of this."

Fiona
Macpherson, HR manager, Daewoo Technical Centre
"Management should have more control over the way it consults its
workforce. Global decisions sometimes have to be made for the greater good of
the company. Unions are often made of people who lack an international vision
and can be parochial in their outlook. Consultation could be more meaningful if
management could go straight to the workforce."

Mike Judge,
former personnel director, Peugeot
"It is a curious situation. Here we are talking about consultation and
the Government is not consulting properly with the very people who can give it
good advice. There have been enough examples over the past two to three years
where there has been inadequate consultation or no consultation at all with the
personnel profession. They (the Government) should be talking to the people who
have to put these things into operation."

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