Workplace Consultation: A New Era

Author:Ms Jennifer O'Neill
Profession:LK Shields
 
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A new legal framework of compulsory collective workplace representation will be created in Ireland when the Information and Consultation Directive comes into force. The deadline for the transposition of this Directive was 23rd March 2005 but to date it has not yet been implemented in Ireland and a draft of the implementing legislation in Ireland is expected in early course.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

All employees, in qualifying organisations, will have a right to be informed and in certain cases consulted, through their elected representatives, on the company's activities and economic situation; employment within the company and decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or in contractual relations.

Examples of the above therefore could include the launch of new products or services, mergers or takeovers, reorganisations, changes in senior management or the undertaking's financial situation, changes in overtime or working hours or retirement policies, redundancies, changes in the pension scheme or disciplinary procedures etc.

To achieve the above the employer and the employees will need to negotiate and implement an information and consultation agreement.

WHEN DOES IT APPLY?

It should be noted that the Directive leaves it open for each member state to decide whether the legislation when fully implemented by 2008 will apply either to undertakings having 50 or more employees or establishments having 20 or more employees. "Undertaking" relates to a legal entity such as a company whereas "establishment" is defined in such a way as to include branches or factories or units, which form part of a larger legal entity. It remains to be seen which approach the Irish legislature will adopt. It is likely that the legislation will however be introduced in Ireland on a phased basis between 2005 and 2008 initially applying to undertakings with at least 150 employees or establishments with at least 100 employees.

It has been left to each member state to determine whether the legislation should apply automatically once the thresholds in relation to the number of employees are exceeded or only once a stated number of employees request a consultation agreement.

WHAT IS MEANT BY CONSULTATION?

Consultation is defined in the Directive as an exchange of views and establishment of dialogue between employee representatives and the employer. Therefore, it would not appear to require negotiation. However, it should be noted that the...

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