We are asking the question, 'are your managers trained up and ready to conduct collective consultation exercises?' Why? Because, given the pandemic, many businesses are having to make decisions very quickly, without the usual time to prepare management for procedures they need to follow, namely the collective consultation obligations triggered by mass redundancies, pay cuts and the like. What we're seeing is, on the whole, a pretty good awareness of the time frames under legislation – which is section 188 of course - but in some cases managers are saying they don't feel ready to face staff and reps and are unsure exactly what their role is, bearing in mind that for many of them it is their first experience of this. Last week our Head of Client training Trish Embley talked to this programme about why managers can feel unsupported and four things HR can do to help them. We’re coming back to this to address another key point that managers really must grasp - that this is a consultation and definitely not a ‘fait accompli’. A question that is often put to the managers is ‘what exactly are you consulting us about?’ and it's a fair point. It goes to the heart of the employer's duty and it's something managers must understand. To explain, Trish Embley again, joining me by video-link from Birmingham:
Trish Embley: “So I think it's important for the managers to understand what consultation really is so that when the employee reps feedback the thoughts of the employees they know exactly what to do and what the whole purpose of that is. So we talk about the law requiring 'conscientious consideration' of those views. So let's just be clear on what that is. That means that management can't say, oh, okay, thanks for that, but no. 'Conscientious consideration' means that they listen. So again, as lawyers, we're all about the evidence, where's the evidence of active listening? Maybe we can reflect back in our meetings, you said, our responses is, and the crucial thing, we go into the details of why perhaps we can't go with your counter proposals, what the problem is, or if there is scope for compromise or flexibility, how we've taken on board your views and maybe flexed our plans a little. So it's all about active listening. It's all about feeding back and giving a response, whether we choose to adapt our plans or not, that's the important thing. This is not a tick box exercise. This is not here, we've transferred some information to you, you've talked back at us, but really a brick wall has come down. A tribunal will see through that and I can remember one tribunal judge referring to the process being 'a carefully choreographed dance', that's all it was, we're just going around in circles, giving information, having information coming back, but nothing was really being considered. It is equally as important to realise that we are talking about consultation, not negotiation, so managers shouldn't feel that we have to reach an agreement. Yes, we give conscientious consideration, yes we will spend some time backward and forward exchanging views, but the ultimate decision is managers' and when the consultation process has come to an end, when all the talking has been done, it is management who can then bring an end to the process and say we've gone through appropriate consultation, we are now going to firm up our proposals. So, as I say, the most important thing is to demonstrate that active listening, show that this isn't just a tick box exercise. Crucially, we don't want any evidence, whether it be verbal or in writing, that this was just a carefully choreographed dance, we always knew what we were going to do and we stuck with it. It's that process of listening, considering and responding that's really important.”
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.