People Management: Three minutes with Richard Hume-Rothery, of the European Study Group

When do the Information and Consultation regulations come into effect?

They come into force on 6 April 2005 and will affect all organisations with 150 employees or more. By April 2008, the law will affect organisations with more than 50 employees.

How will it affect charity staff and their employers? The TUC has already described it as "the single most important piece of legislation in more than 50 years". It gives employees the right to be kept informed and consulted on matters that affect their employment, such as mergers with other charities that could lead to redundancies. They will also have the right to know about the economics of the organisation and changing working practices such as the introduction of flexible working hours.

What about decision-making? It does not give staff the right to become involved in decision-making, but it does enable individual organisations to find a means of communication which best suits them. Most European countries have had the same legislation in place for decades, and the European Study Group has worked closely with the Government to ensure the regulations are beneficial to both employees and employers.

How will it all work in practice?

The employer will only be obliged to inform and consult following a valid request from 10 per cent of the employees. Employers must respond within a month and enter into negotiations. They must also draw up an agreement detailing how they will communicate with staff.

What happens if the request is ignored?A complaint can be taken to the Central Arbitration Committee. The ultimate penalty will be enforced by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and will carry a fine of up to £75,000.

Will this create further expense for charities? Not at all. The new regulations should improve relations between staff and employers. In fact, better communication should improve staff retention and avoid costly litigation.

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