UK firms forge ahead on staff consultation

Ground-breaking research published this week will confirm that UK companies
are making big strides in improving staff consultation and gearing up for the
forthcoming European directive.

The Involvement and Participation Association’s Information and Consultation
Audit, rel-eased exclusively to Personnel Today, provides guidance to employers
on how to comply with the new directive, which becomes law in 2003.

William Coupar, director of IPA, said, "A very large number of British
organisations are doing things to inform and consult staff that go well beyond
the directive.

"It is now important to move the political debate on to a phase where
practitioners are developing best practice."

The audit also highlights key areas of consultation where employers
encounter difficulties, including the make-up of consultative bodies,
confidentiality, defining information and consultation and how to handle
collective redundancies.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the EEF, believes the
research sends a message to the Government that a one-size-fits-all model for
consultation is not the way forward.

"Consultation has to be something that fits in with your management
style, organisational structure and employee relations culture," he said.

Mark O’Connell, HR director of Eurotunnel, who will be speaking at the
launch of the IPA research in London, believes that it is "a fundamental
challenge" to get the culture of consultation and mutual trust embedded in
organisations.

Eurotunnel is piloting a two-day course next week for managers and staff
representatives to improve consultation skills, and is splitting the cost of
the course equally with the T&G union.

By Mike Broad

Key lessons for employers

Consultative bodies: Staff councils or forums that involve both union
and non-union representatives work best

Confidentiality: Management needs to spell out which information is
confidential to employee representatives

Set boundaries: Provide staff with as much information as they need
to understand the challenges facing the business and define the difference
between information, consultation and negotiation

Collective redundancies: Consultation should include discussing ways
of avoiding dismissals, reducing their number and mitigating the effects

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