From March 2005 ALL employers in the UK above a certain size will have to establish Works Councils for on-going consultation with employees.

This will have to be "Meaningful" consultation and the scope of issues that have to be consulted on has widened dramatically. A formal body such as a Works Council will also have to be set up as consulting individual employees will not be sufficient. The process must be designed to enable management to commit to an on going dialogue with staff with the objective of reaching an agreement, whilst it will not be required to reach an actual agreement.

Remember, the requirement will be to give information on recent and probable business development and any measures relating to staff and any plans that could decide to change contractual relations or work organisation. Employee representatives will also have the protection in employment law, particularly against dismissal.

You need to be aware that trade unions will see this legislation as an opportunity to strengthen their position and recruit new members, with the assistance of the ERA99 act, they can get their members as representatives on elected councils even where they do not have a representative agreement with the company.

This consultative directive is going to cause a large cultural shift in UK business, by planning ahead, and installing the representative bodies you want, and that fit the business, you wont have to wait until the legislation and employee or trade union pressure forces you to comply.

Remember, this will affect the decision making process in the company and will have to be understood and be part of the business process. Properly planned and implemented this could be a positive influence on future employee relations and communications,if it's forced in as a result of third party pressure it could result in making life difficult.

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