Macmillan Publishers has been fined £55,000 for failing to comply with the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 (ICE regulations). This is the first penalty awarded under the ICE regulations.
The ICE regulations
The regulations came into force in April 2005 and currently apply to employers with at least 100 staff (this will extend to employers with at least 50 employers in April 2008). The regulations require employers to set up information and consultation arrangements to ensure that employees are informed and consulted on a wide range of issues. However, the obligation on employers is not automatic and is triggered on a valid request from at least 10% of employees. Once a valid request has been made, the employer must make arrangements to allow the employees to elect representatives to negotiate the agreement (unless there is a valid pre-existing agreement in place covering the entire workforce that also has workforce support).
Following an application by Amicus, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) found that Macmillan had failed to arrange a ballot of its employees to elect the relevant number of information and consultation representatives. Macmillan contended that it had pre-existing agreements in place to defeat the request. The CAC found that the pre-existing agreements were not valid as they did not cover the entire workforce. Macmillan was ordered to hold a ballot and Amicus applied for a penalty to be imposed in relation to the breach.
The £55,000 penalty (the maximum being £75,000) imposed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal took into account that Macmillan had ignored the legislation, committed other breaches, including a failure to provide information, had unacceptably “dragged its feet” in dealing with the employee request, and had not adequately explained its failure to comply.
- A £55,000 penalty was awarded to deter other employers from adopting a similarly “cavalier” attitude to their obligations.
- Employers must recognise the importance of and comply with their obligations under the ICE regulations.
What you should do
- Act promptly if you receive a request to set up information and consultation arrangements. Take your responsibilities under the regulations seriously.
- Check whether there is a valid pre-existing agreement in place. If not, negotiate an agreement.
- Negotiations must start no later than three months after a valid request. During this period, arrange for the appointment or election of employee negotiating representatives.