How to hold collective consultation
Consultation should include:
- open and honest conversations about the redundancy process
- considering other options with employees and their representatives
You should discuss and ask for their ideas on:
- your planned changes
- ways to avoid or reduce the redundancies
- how to reduce the effect of the redundancies
- how employees are selected for redundancy
- how the business or organisation can restructure or plan for the future
Employees will often have good ideas that may help to avoid redundancies. You do not have to agree to their suggestions, but it's important to seriously consider any ideas that could reduce redundancies, otherwise employees could claim the redundancy process has been unfair. It's important to document all discussions and the reasons for your decisions.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you must still hold consultations. You may need to do this remotely. There is no legal requirement to consult face to face.
Consult trade union or employee representatives
When collective consultation is needed, by law you must consult any recognised trade union. If there’s no trade union, you must consult employee representatives.
Electing employee representatives
To get employee representatives in place, you need to set up an election process.
There may already be an agreement that gives existing employee representatives the right to represent staff in redundancy situations. For example, an information and consultation agreement.
Employee representatives can be elected specifically for the consultation, but you may need to provide training for the role.
So that the election process is fair, you must make sure:
- employees who stand for election are affected by the redundancy when the election takes place
- affected employees are not stopped from standing for election
- affected employees are given the right to vote for employee representatives
- affected employees can vote for as many candidates as there are representatives to be elected – or as many candidates as there are representatives in their group, if there'll be representatives for particular groups of employees
- votes can be made secretly and counted accurately
- there are sufficient employee representatives elected to represent the interests of all affected employees
You should also consider how long employee representatives will be elected for – they must have enough time to provide relevant information and complete consultation.
You should make sure there are enough representatives so that if one is not able to attend a meeting, for example they’re off sick, there will still be representation.
If nobody wants to be elected as an employee representative, you should consult with the affected employees directly. This should be a last resort.
Before beginning consultation, you must provide trade union or employee representatives with the following in writing:
- why you need to make redundancies
- how many redundancies you're considering
- roles at risk of redundancy (in a 'selection pool')
- your current ideas for how to select employees for redundancy
- your planned timeframes
- how you'll calculate redundancy pay
- if you're using agency workers, how many, where they're working and the type of work they're doing
- arranging regular meetings
- being as open as possible
- listening to views
- genuinely considering suggestions
- finding ways to avoid or reduce redundancies
- deciding on the best way to select employees
- getting support for affected employees
- deciding what should be included in redundancy packages
You should encourage employee representatives to speak on behalf of employees.
Representatives need to be able to:
- tell employees about the proposals and share information
- ask employees for their views, suggestions and any questions they may have
- talk to other representatives and work out a collective staff response
- meet with management and give feedback on the staff response
- engage in open discussions to solve problems and reach agreements
- tell employees the outcome of consultations
The rights of trade union and employee representatives
By law, trade union and employee representatives have the right to:
- reasonable paid time off for trade union duties
- reasonable time off for training
- reasonable access to constituent employees and workplace facilities
You must not dismiss someone or treat them unfairly because they’re a trade union or employee representative.
Find out more in the Acas Code of Practice on time off for trade union duties and activities (PDF, 749KB, 48 pages).