Are your managers trained up and ready to conduct collective consultation exercises? If you're business that is contemplating redundancies on a large scale, or having to impose pay cuts on staff, or other changes to terms and conditions, then as HR professionals you will be aware that it will be the managers at the sharp end, required to consult with staff and deliver those difficult messages. But are they up to the job? After all, they have considerable legal obligations to discharge and, on a personal level, it will probably be stressful and difficult for most of them.
A question we are often asked by clients is - can we help train-up the front line managers? The answer is - yes, we can. So, let’s hear more about it. On the line from Birmingham, head of client training, Trish Embley:
Trish Embley: “So what we found in terms of training is that over the years we've been asked to train employee reps who are going to take part in redundancy consultation because it is important that they carry out their role properly, but more and more, I think clients are understanding that the managers who have to deliver this message, they need training as well, they need to have their confidence built, they need to understand the basics of the law so that they understand what consultation is about, what its purpose is, and what the key requirements are so they can keep referring back to that if they're challenged or if they're asked any questions. So really, the purpose of the training we do is to reassure and to just give them some key areas to focus on. So, I think the first thing I'd say to any manager is they have to own the message that they're delivering, they have to feel comfortable with it. So if they're in any doubts about the business proposals, they must ask. I know a lot of HR teams do put together a briefing pack for managers that they can refer to but I think they themselves shouldn't be scared to ask questions and to probe because what we don't want is them presenting to employee reps saying well what they're telling me is, they have to be the voice-piece for the business, they have to be able to back up with what they're saying, this is the whole rationale behind these proposals. The other thing I'd assure them on is they shouldn't feel too intimidated that they've always got to have the answer. Now, obviously, in the initial meeting, there might be lots of questions, but it's totally okay for them to say, at this stage, I don't know or at this stage that hasn't been decided but we will get back to you as soon as we can. Or even, you know what, I don't know the answer to that, I'm going to have to take that away and ask the question. The important thing is that the reps feel that we're being honest, transparent and open. We're not trying to keep anything from them and honesty is often, therefore, the best policy. I think the most important thing from a lawyer's point of view is that the message is clearly driven out that these are just proposals at this stage. So, we do not want any evidence, whether it be in writing or otherwise, that what information is being provided is set in stone and I think the managers should be prepared for a little bit of cynicism on this. They might get some reps, maybe union reps or employee reps saying, well, what's the point of all this, you've clearly made your mind up, and that's where they've got to really try and engage the reps and say no, hang on, this is what we're doing, we have, with a heavy heart, come up with these proposals but no decisions will be final until we have input from you. Then I think it's probably worth pre-empting some issues we have seen with certain clients, just going over with the reps what their role is and what it isn't. So, we hear from some clients that some reps can come back with their own agenda or their own personal views but, of course, their role should be to be the mouthpiece for the people they represent. So it's good for the managers to go over that and say now what you need to do is go to those that you represent and solicit their views and feed them back to us so that we can look at the proposals on the table and see if there's any scope for flexibility, any fresh ideas, any thoughts that you might have as to how we can either avoid, or how we can mitigate these proposals. So, I think the challenge therefore, for the reps and for the managers, is how they do this if they can't have face to face meetings. So I think there needs to be support both for the managers and for the reps in terms of what facilities are available to them. If it is virtual platforms, are they happy using them? Are they okay uploading information because as lawyers we want evidence of what has been shared, what information has been given. So, for example, is the manager happy uploading a slide presentation? Do they need another host facilitator there? You can keep an eye on the chat box. They don't want people constantly interrupting them until it's Q&A time, are they happy that they can put people on mute and take them off mute? Similarly for the employee reps, how are they going to get this information out, and the more helpful we can be to them and say, well, if they have access to laptops, then we can have Teams meetings or some virtual platform, if not maybe people can join by mobile phones, or if we have to rely on post we can schedule that into the timing as well. So, obviously, when we're talking about remote meetings, a virtual world, there is an extra layer of support, a little bit more effort that needs to go into it, both for the managers and the employee reps."
If you would like further details on this type of training we would be happy to provide it for you. Trish Embley’s details are there on screen for you, or you can hit the ‘Make an Enquiry’ tab on the Outlaw website.