Managing employee consultation and representation during COVID-19

employee consultation and representation smallConsultation is a legal requirement if you intend to change contracts of employment, make redundancies, lay staff off, sell your business or acquire another one (TUPE).  There are other times too when consultation is a legal requirement.

The current challenges

Most of the time the process is relatively straight forward, if time consuming, as staff are present at work. The communication challenges are generally around multi site operations and those who are remote workers or long term absent from the organisation (such as those on long term sickness or maternity leave). For clarity, those who are on long term leave should be given an opportunity to stand for election and vote, and of course should be included in consultation.

What has changed over the course of the last month or so is that the number of remote workers has not just shot through the roof, but in most organisations become the norm.  This will massively change the approach that needs to be taken with the communication, elections, the training and then the operation/work of the newly elected representatives.

Previously training and consultation have mostly been done face to face and the employee reps have found it relatively easy to communicate with staff using a variety of methods of communication. Sadly, this is no longer possible in a lot of business, and communication and consultation will need to be completed in a different way and through very different channels e.g. online meetings.

The process

Unless you intend to consult individually (this is possible if less than 20 people are involved), you will need to appoint employee reps. The usual process would be to:

  1. Communicate with staff the need to elect representatives.
  2. Identify which of your staff would like to stand for election.
  3. Hold an election which all staff are able to vote in.
  4. Set up and train your committee so they understand their role (training is a legal requirement).
  5. Hold as many collective consultation meetings as necessary to consult with staff, discuss plans, hear feedback, comments and so on.

A helping hand

If you need support, we are here to make your life a little easier:

Initial communications

You will need to send out an initial communication. We can write your communications if necessary. We also have a video that can be purchased that explains to staff what the consultation process is and how the elections work.

Election of representatives

Explaining the Role: Our second video explains to those who are interested in standing for election what their role will be. This will really help you going forwards as you don’t want representatives during their training to decide that the role is not for them.

Electing representatives: Once you have identified which employees wish to stand for election, you will need to ask all your employees to vote in an election. If most employees are working remotely, we suggest using your database of email addresses and/or text numbers to remotely manage your election process using an online tool/software. We can manage this process for you. Your new representatives can be elected in just a few days, once the key employee data has been received by us.

Setting up the committee and training representatives

Once employee reps are elected, you need to explain their role and function to them fully. We strongly recommend that you have a employee rep constitution which clearly sets out the purpose of the group, and explains the logistics associated with the group e.g. how often they meet, numbers etc. so that reps are absolutely clear about the mechanics of the group. We can provide a remit/constitution (just 2 pages or so) to ensure everyone is clear on expectations and responsibilities.

You might want to consider a confidentiality document too. Not all organisations ask reps to sign confidentiality agreements, many just mention confidentiality in the constitution, but it’s worth considering if you think that your reps will be regularly given confidential information that they cannot divulge. An alternative is to just issue a confidentiality agreement if any particularly confidential/sensitive issues arise.

The training of representatives is what the team at Jaluch has excelled at for nearly two decades, having trained up many thousands of representatives across that time, working across the UK (and Europe) and across all sectors and sizes of organisations.

Our approach is to strike a good balance between giving representatives:

  • essential legal knowledge
  • an understanding of professional etiquette
  • how to work together as a team
  • how to collect and present employee views
  • how to support a colleague at a formal meeting as companion (should they be invited to do so).
  • If needed, confidence using tech such as online meeting tools for formal and other meetings

Alongside our face to face training for representatives, and considering current circumstances, we are able to host virtual training sessions using online platforms (GoToMeeting/Zoom) with a focus on what your organisation specifically needs such as contract changes, TUPE, redundancies, lay offs or short time working.

We tailor the session to the needs of your organisation, using language that your representatives will find familiar, speaking in Plain English, encouraging them to work as a cohesive team, confident in how to consult with those they represent and then feed those views back to the organisation.

Training managers and HR teams in the consultation and representation process

For those managers and HR supporting and working with the staff/employee representatives we are delighted to offer training (virtual or face to face) to ensure familiarity and confidence with the process, the law and best practice. Training is always tailored to the specific needs of your organisation and a Q&A session is an essential part of our sessions.

Top tips for employee representation appointment and training

  1. Don’t forget the paperwork – a remit or constitution will provide clarity including detail of the role, parameters of the role, professional behaviour, absences, resignations, conflict of interest, confidentiality etc.
  2. In training don’t forget the managers – if we train your staff, please don’t leave your managers not having the same level of understanding, otherwise you will be asking them to work with their backs against the wall.
  3. Make sure that anyone standing in an election actually understands what the role is about before the election as you need them ready to go as soon as your committee is formed. Having representatives resign just a few days into a process is disruptive and avoidable.
  4. When selecting a training provider, don’t use one that only focusses on the legislation and process or one that is likely to create an environment of ‘us against them’. These are tough times for organisations and you need representatives, staff and management all working together in the best interests of everyone.
  5. If you have staff and/or representatives who are not particularly confident with tech, then consider a tech training session alongside usual representatives’ training so that they are able to communicate with those they represent easily and with minimum frustration.

What companies have said after our training:

“Jaluch recently delivered two Staff Rep Training Courses for our new staff reps at DHU Health Care. The trainer was warm, engaging and the feedback from those who attended the course has been really positive. We look forward to booking further Staff Representative Training Courses with Jaluch in the future!”

Training options

If your business is interested in training for your staff forum, why not take a look at a few options …

Please contact us for further information including pricing and available dates. We look forward to working with you.

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