Information and consultation of employees

It's good practice for your employer to let you know what's going on in the business and about any planned future changes. In some cases, there are legal rights for your employer to consult you.

What information and consultation is

Arrangements to inform and consult mean there's ongoing communication between your employer and their employees. This should involve any important developments that could affect the people who work for the organisation.

Employers should tell staff what's planned - informing - and listen and take into account the views expressed by employees when deciding what to do - consulting.

The rights aren’t automatic. Unless your employer decides to introduce new arrangements voluntarily, employees have to ask for them. At least 10 per cent of the employees must ask, subject to a minimum of 15 employees and a maximum of 2,500 employees.

Your employer can count part-time employees as full-time when working this out but doesn't have to. If you aren’t sure who counts as an ‘employee’, follow the link below.

A request must be in writing, stating your name and 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 Industrial Court in Northern Ireland rather than your employer.  

What happens if you already have information and consultation arrangements

Your workplace may already have arrangements that employees are happy with. In this case, there's no need to make a change. If 40 per cent of staff ask in writing for new arrangements, they must be brought in.

If 10 per cent ask, your employer may hold a staff ballot. If less than 40 per cent vote in favour of the new arrangements, it's likely the existing arrangements will stay in place.

Agreeing new arrangements

If employees make a valid request for new information and consultation arrangements, 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.

If an agreement can't be reached after a certain period of time, standard provisions will act as a fallback.

Standard provisions

These standard provisions give rights to be consulted on:

  • the organisation's recent and likely future economic situation
  • the current and future employment situation and any threats to jobs
  • decisions likely to lead to changes to the organisation and employees' contracts (for example, reorganisations, changes to working practices and changes in pay)
  • Code of Practice on Picketing (Department for the Economy website)

Good practice

Because every organisation is different, there is flexibility in the way employers can inform you and consult with you. However, your employer should always try to be as open as possible, unless the information is commercially sensitive. There are many ways for your employer to do this, but it will depend on:

  • what they need to tell you
  • the size and structure of the organisation
  • you and your colleagues' usual work practices

For example, information about the company's economic situation could be passed on in small group meetings with departmental managers, or a questionnaire could be sent to staff to find out what employees think about a suggested course of action. Other ways to communicate include:

  • intranet bulletins
  • email
  • team briefings
  • monthly newsletters
  • video-conferencing
  • notice boards
  • company handbooks

In larger organisations, it may be helpful to set up a joint consultative committee or staff council, which helps to build trust between your employer and staff representatives. Regular meetings can also help make suggestions more useful and relevant.

Other situations where your employer must consult

When redundancies are planned

Your employer should consult with you before making you redundant. If more than 20 redundancies are planned, they must also consult representatives of those affected.

They must say when the redundancies will happen and explain why they're happening. They must do this early enough for alternative plans to be put forward, like redeployment or retraining, and your employer must consider seriously any alternatives before making a decision.

When a business is transferred

Your employer must also consult you or your representatives if there's going to be a transfer of ownership. They must say:

When pension changes are proposed

Employers with 50 or more employees should consult when they are proposing to make a significant change to a work-based pension scheme. They must provide all affected staff with:

  • written details of the proposed change, which must be before the start of the consultation
  • relevant background information
  • the timescale in which they intend to introduce the change

Your employer may also consult with an employee representative. This could be your trade union representative or information and consultation representative or someone specifically appointed for the purpose. Your employer must allow at least 60 days for the consultation.

When your employer fails to consult you

If your employer hasn't consulted staff, but should have done so, depending on the circumstances there are a number of things you can do.

Information and Consultation of Employee Regulations

If your employer doesn't consult the workforce properly, under the Information and Consultation of Employee Regulations, your representatives (or you) can complain to the Industrial Court.

If the Industrial Court upholds the complaint your representatives (or you) can apply to the High Court who can order the employer to pay a penalty.

Redundancy and Transfer of Undertakings Regulations

Where there's a failure to consult collectively with employees in a redundancy situation or a transfer of the business, employees affected (or their representatives) can apply to an Industrial Tribunal for compensation which is known as a 'protective award'.

This doesn't apply if your employer has just failed to consult you individually. If your employer hasn't consulted you individually before making you redundant, this may mean that your redundancy amounts to unfair dismissal.

Pension changes

Where there is a failure to consult with affected employees about relevant pension changes, you or your employee representative can complain to the Pensions Regulator.

Where you can get help

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA)  and Advice NI offer free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland. 

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