The government has turned to a panel of HR experts to help resolve legal disputes arising from the new Information and Consultation laws, introduced earlier this year.
The DTI has appointed a number of HR and employee relations professionals to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), which will deal with any claims by disgruntled trade unions or employee groups.
The new members will be able to provide a wealth of workplace and commercial experience to the CAC, which could face a rash of claims once the Regulations have bedded in.
The panel consists of experts from business and workers groups, with the CAC hoping to draw on the combined workplace experience to deliver fair and balanced judgments.
The CAC also rules on trade union recognition and Raymond Jeffers, chairman of the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA), said it previously faced a raft of claims when laws in this area were first introduced.
“Because the laws are brand new, it is difficult to say how many claims will be brought or how it will work in practice. There’s a variety of claims that can be brought under the new laws and the CAC has had to gear itself up to be able to handle it,” he said.
The move reflects the growing influence of HR in the business community and the panel includes former practitioners from firms including Tesco, the RAC, HSBC and Reuters.
The 12 new members were drawn from more than 253 applicants and the final CAC will be made up of 11 deputy chairmen, 23 employer representatives and 21 workers’ representatives, all serving under chairman Sir Michael Burton.
Peter Martin, former director of employment policy at manufacturing group EEF, is one of the new committee members and is preparing for training in the new role. “After training we will handle the full range of CAC cases. At the moment, trade union recognition is the most common, but I think information and consultation will generate a greater number of claims.
“HR experience will be invaluable to the panel because employer representatives will be able to bring some real workplace experience,” he said.
Martin said the new members will have dealt with large recognition deals in the past and will be used to the complexities of HR policy in practice. The experience of both the business and worker representatives should provide enough ‘real world’ know-how to deliver conclusive rulings.
“I think you need people with experience of complex HR and employee relations policies to help rule on these sorts of issues,” he added.
Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said employers must ensure they have robust policies on informing and consulting with staff, even if business conditions are good.
“The regulations are quite flexible so employers should look very carefully at how they inform and consult with staff. It’s good that HR professionals are included in the committee, which is now very well placed to make balanced judgments over any disputes.”
The new CAC members: