Employers must act now on consultation directive

The CIPD has urged employers to act promptly to ensure they are prepared to
comply with the final version of the European directive on information and
consultation.

The directive, which was agreed last month, will give employees the right to
be informed about their employer’s economic situation and informed and
consulted over restructuring, such as redundancies.

UK companies will not be expected to implement the directive until 2005, but
Diane Sinclair, employee relations’ adviser at the CIPD, said employers who do
not already comply should start changing the way they consult with their staff
as soon as possible.

"If companies act now to establish adequate procedures for informing
and consulting their staff they may avoid having to set up a works council in
what is likely to be a hostile environment," she said.

"If they put arrangements in place now that satisfy both parties
(employees and management) then an employee request for a works council is much
less likely."

EU member states have been left to decide what enforcement measures are
introduced to ensure the directive is obeyed.

This is a relief to UK employers who had been concerned over proposals put
forward in October to introduce sanctions across Europe for non-compliance.

Employers may withhold information where disclosure would seriously harm the
company or be prejudicial to it, or they may require that employee
representatives keep this information confidential.

Companies in the UK with 150 or more employees will have to comply with the
directive from early 2005, those with 100 or more staff have until 2007 and
firms with 50 or more staff are not bound by the directive until 2008.

The CBI’s deputy director general John Cridland gave the final version of
the directive a cautious welcome. "We recognise that ministers have
negotiated the least damaging deal available," he said.

www.dti.gov.uk

By Ben Willmott

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