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Employee communications and consultation

Employee communications and consultation are essentially about involving and developing people in an organisation. Employees will be able to perform at their best if they know their duties, obligations and rights and have an opportunity to make their views known to management on issues that affect them.

Key points

  • Good employee communications and consultation can improve organisational and management performance and also improve decision-making.
  • Employers should have a communications and consultation policy.
  • Good communication and consultation should involve everyone in an organisation.
  • Consultation involves taking account of as well as listening to the views of employees.
  • Communication is a two-way process - information should flow up from employees and down from managers.

Good communications and consultation are central to the management process when dealing with changes in working practices and procedures. Communication is concerned with the exchange of information and ideas within an organisation. Consultation involves managers actively seeking and taking account of the views of employees before making a decision.

A communication and consultation policy is a particularly effective way of setting out the attitude of the organisation and defining the responsibilities of those involved. The main links in any communication and consultation system are the line managers and supervisors. They are responsible for passing on information in both directions.

Information to be communicated

Managers need to communicate information to employees about:

  • contractual terms and conditions of employment
  • the job and its performance
  • the organisation's performance progress and prospects
  • changes to any of the above issues.

Employees will also have concerns and points they wish to raise about their jobs and the organisation and there should be provision for communicating this information to managers.

Methods of communication

A variety of communications methods will be needed, both spoken and written. The methods will depend mainly on the size and structure of the organisation. Methods include:

  • face to face meetings
  • company handbooks
  • video conferencing
  • intranet
  • email
  • notice board
  • organisation newsletters
  • individual letters to employees.

Legal aspects of consultation

There are some times when employers must consult with employees, for example when 20 or more employees are to be made redundant a period of consultation must take place. This would also be the case where a transfer of undertakings will occur. Also employers may be covered by the Information and consultation of employees (ICE) regulations 2004 which apply to business with 50 or more employees. Under these regulations, employees have the right to:

  • information about the business economic situation
  • information and consultation about employment prospects
  • information and consultation about decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or contractual relations.
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