It's the law: Information and consultation

Charities should start thinking about new requirements to share information with their staff.

From 6 April, the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 will be extended to apply to those organisations with 100 or more employees.

From 6 April 2008 the regulations will be further extended to apply to undertakings with 50 or more employees. The regulations will apply to charities.

The regulations set out default provisions to be met by employers when it comes to informing employees about and consulting them on issues affecting their employment and the performance of the undertaking.

These issues include the recent and probable development of the undertaking's activities and economic situation; the situation, structure and development of employment within the undertaking (including, for example, whether there is a threat to employment); and decisions that are likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or in contractual relations.

This default position applies where there is a breakdown in negotiations between the employer and employees concerning information and consultation arrangements. A breakdown is deemed to occur when, six months after the triggering of the obligation to negotiate, the employer and employees have failed to reach agreement.

Exactly when the obligation to negotiate is triggered depends on whether the employer has in place pre-existing information and consultation arrangements that have been approved by the workforce and which cover all employees.

Where such arrangements are in place, the employer will need to negotiate changes only if a request is received that is supported by at least 40 per cent of the workforce. In the absence of such arrangements, an employer must negotiate only if it has received a request supported by at least 10 per cent of the workforce.

Charities that do not have pre-existing arrangements and may be caught by the regulations in April 2007 or 2008 should consider acting now to implement such arrangements in advance.

• Emma Burrows, partner and head of the employment group at Trowers & Hamlins solicitors

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