The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations concerning the right by employees to be informed and consulted about workplace matters which affect their employment.
The Regulations give employees the right to request negotiation of an agreement which will set out a procedure for informing and consulting workforce representatives on a variety of business issues.
They implemented the EC Directive on Information & Consultation in the Workplace, which places employers under an obligation to consult with their workforce on an ongoing basis so that employees are better informed of potential changes to their employment.
There are four types of arrangement whereby employees may learn of proposed changes and developments as follows:
- Pre-existing arrangement – one which has been approved by the majority of the workforce and has not been challenged by an employee request
- Negotiated arrangement – following an employee request, a ballot overturning a pre-existing arrangement or employer initiated negotiations
- Statutory arrangement – one which is in place following a failure to respond to an employee request or a failure to negotiate an agreement within the statutory timeframe
- No arrangement – where there has been no employee request and the employer chooses not to initiate negotiations
Pre-existing arrangements are entirely valid to continue unless an employee request challenges this. In order to be valid, such a challenge must be made by a minimum of 10% of the workforce and this will mean that an employer will be obliged to enter into negotiations with representatives to seek to agree an information and consultation arrangement.
There are certain conditions for any pre-existing arrangement to be valid. If it is not, then again it may be challenged by a minimum of 10% of the workforce.
The Information and Consultation Regulations provide a default system in the absence of a pre-existing arrangement or if a pre-existing arrangement is challenged. If the workforce is happy with the current arrangement then it is likely there will be no need to invoke the Information and Consultation Regulations and follow their processes.
There are some basic minimum requirements for a negotiated agreement but overall the aim is to enable the parties to determine what best suits them in terms of an arrangement for information and consultation.
There is no requirement to enter into an agreement under the Regulations but if one is already in place then it may be there will not be any necessity to fall back on the Regulations because the pre-existing agreement can be used. However, this does not mean the pre-existing agreement cannot be challenged and thereby require the utilisation of the Regulations. It will very much be a question of the individual employer’s decision based on knowledge of its own workforce and whether or not an employer wishes to demonstrate good employee relations and show pro-activity in encouraging wider information and consultation.