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Sunday, 29 November 2009

New information and consultation arrangements

Not everyone has the right to be informed and consulted by their employer. However if you do, and you don't already have an information and consultation arrangement in place, you have to ask your employer for one.

Asking for information and consultation (I&C) arrangements

If you want to introduce information and consultation (I&C) arrangements where you work, you have to ask your employer for them. At least 10 per cent of the employees must ask for the new I&C arrangements, subject to a minimum of 15 employees and a maximum of 2,500 employees. 'Workers' cannot request I&C arrangements, only employees.

Do you have the right to make a request?

Before you make a request to your employer you may want to check that you have the right to ask for I&C arrangements and that your organisation qualifies. To do this, you can ask your employer to confirm how many employees are employed in your organisation. If you work in an organisation with 50 or more employees you have the right to be informed and consulted about important workplace issues. The number of employees will also tell you how much support you need to make a valid request and your employer must, by law, provide you with this information.

Your employer can count part-time employees as half an employee if they are contracted to work fewer than 75 hours per month. 'Workers' will not count towards the total number.

How to make the request

A request for new I&C arrangements must:

  • be in writing
  • state the name of the person requesting the arrangements
  • give the date on which it was sent

It is also a good idea to sign it. If you want to remain anonymous you can send your request to the Central Arbitration Committee (Industrial Court in Northern Ireland) rather than your employer.

To meet the 10 per cent staff agreement threshold, requests by employees for an I&C agreement can be made over a period of up to six months.

Once you have sent in a valid request, your employer must acknowledge it and tell all employees what will be put in place to negotiate an I&C agreement. This must include the opportunity for you and your colleagues to elect or appoint negotiating representatives. During negotiations your employer must get together with employees (or their representatives) to try to reach an agreement on what, how and when employees will be consulted.

Protection for employees and employee representatives

If you request an I&C agreement or take part in one, either as an employee or an employee representative, you have certain rights. You are protected against unfair treatment or unfair dismissal by your employer for any reason around:

  • asking for information from your employer
  • requesting a new I&C agreement
  • standing as a candidate in an I&C election
  • any of your duties through being an employee representative

If you are a negotiating representative or an I&C representative, you are entitled to take reasonable, paid time off during working hours to perform your representative duties. 

You can complain to an Employment Tribunal if you exercise your rights under the Information and Consultation of Employee Regulations and your employer does not:

  • let you take reasonable, paid time off
  • dismisses you unfairly
  • subjects you to a 'detriment' - this means you are disadvantaged at work, for instance you do not get a pay rise or your hours are cut back

You or your representatives could complain to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC):

  • if your employer doesn't consult employees properly under the Regulations
  • fails to set-up an arrangement under the I&C standard provisions - these are set out in the Regulations

If the CAC upholds (supports) the complaint your representatives (or you) can apply to the Employment Appeals Tribunal to ask them to impose a financial penalty of up to £75,000 on your employer.

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