Of all the draft EU directives sitting on the desks of power in Brussels, employers have always been most fearful of the one on information and consultation. Now speculation is rife among the Euro-watchers that at next month's Council of Ministers' meeting it could finally get voted through - a UK law could follow in three years' time.
This spectre has been raised before and employers' organisations like the CBI keep dismissing it as rumour-mongering. Employers say national works councils' proposals, as the directive is more colloquially known, will have a damaging impact on UK business. It allows staff access to information on the most sensitive areas - from mergers to redundancies and business sales. And employers face paying out 90 days' wages for each employee disadvantaged by the lack of consultation.
It looks like HR professionals will have to live with this legislation. But there is no reason why they should let it go through unchallenged - it is still a draft directive.
The text of an EU proposal does not have to impose a rigid works council structure on every company. Before it is translated into the UK legislative framework, senior HR practitioners should contact European lobbyists or MEPs to push for a long lead-in time. They should insist on clauses that say if a company has an effective consultation scheme, it should be acceptable. The detail should be left to individual firms.
There are some benefits to good consultation - a well-informed workforce should equal a motivated workforce. And if consultation with staff is going to be key to a successful merger or business sale, it will give HR more clout in the boardroom as the executive team turns to HR before the investment banker for advice.