WBS-Acas event discusses effectiveness of employee consultation regulations

06 March 2013

Thirty high-level practitioners, policy-makers and analysts participated in a one-day briefing seminar in London last month, jointly organised by Warwick Business School’s Industrial Relations Research Unit (IRRU) and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas)  At the end of the event, there was consensus that consultation regulations are not making the impact that they should, even though they could benefit both management and employees.

The aim of the invitation-only event was to re-evaluate employee consultation and the role of the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) Regulations, and to review the latest research evidence concerning the incidence, practice and impact of employee consultation. Those taking part included senior managers, representatives of employers’ groups, trade union officials, lawyers, consultants and academics.

Lively and extensive discussions took place.  Key issues included:

  • how to make consultation more effective
  • the role of trade unions
  • the desirability or otherwise of reforming the statutory framework for consultation and the potential for this to be driven by further regulatory developments at EU level.

The seminar showcased the key findings from recent IRRU research in 25 organisations, which analysed the organisations’ responses to the ICE regulations.  The research was funded by the government, Acas and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

WBS researchers Mark Hall and John Purcell presented two papers.

  1. The first assessed how far two employee information and consultation bodies established in response to the legislation had been effective, differentiating between ‘active consulters’ and ‘communicators’. Beyond providing the catalyst for managerial moves to introduce consultation, the influence of the statutory framework was found to be largely peripheral.
  2. The second explored the relationship between employee voice, consultation and engagement, and identified the key building blocks for making consultation work effectively. 

Other speakers included Acas officials Gill Dix and Peter Monaghan, who analysed the recently-published first findings relating to employee communication, consultation and representation from the 2011 national Workplace Employment Relations Survey.  They highlighted the lessons for good practice from Acas’s advisory work on consultation issues.  Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of the trade union Unite, discussed his union’s mixed experiences of the ICE Regulations, concluding that unions needed to engage more fully with the opportunities that the legislation provided.

Commenting on the seminar, IRRU professorial fellow  Mark Hall said: “The event provided an excellent opportunity for us to present our research to the practitioner and policymaking communities and to widen its impact. There was broad recognition among the participants that there are gains for both management and employees in consulting effectively on key business issues – and that the regulations are not working as effectively as they should.  

“Inevitably, there was less of a consensus on our call for legislative reform, but our research has already been cited extensively in the House of Lords by peers seeking to strengthen the regulatory framework.”

Prof Guglielmo Meardi, Director of IRRU; Prof Paul Davies, Jesus College Oxford; Professorial Fellow Mark Hall, IRRU

Further information:

  1. M Hall, S Hutchinson, J Purcell, M Terry and J Parker (2010) Information and consultation under the ICE Regulations: evidence from longitudinal case studies, Employment Relations Research Series no 117, London: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/employment-matters/docs/I/10-1380-information-consultation-ice-regulations
  2. J Purcell and M Hall (2012) Voice and participation in the modern workplace: challenges and prospects, Acas Future of Workplace Relations discussion paper series, London: Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/g/7/Voice_and_Participation_in_the_Modern_Workplace_challenges_and_prospects.pdf

M Hall and J Purcell (2012) Consultation at work: regulation and practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press, is available through all good bookshops, or direct from OUP at: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199605460.do





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