Category Archives: Employee Relations

The changing face of Employment Relations

This information has been provided courtesy of Rachel Pinto, Senior Research Officer at Acas.

Harold Wilson famously said that ‘he who rejects change is the architect of decay.’ Strong words in favour of change being progressive, dynamic and forward looking. But change can also be daunting and its effects widespread. This was a clear theme emerging from the Acas Wales Conference.
Framed as ‘The changing face of Employment Relations’ the conference set out a number of changes sweeping across the world of work. And looking round the audience of employment law specialists, employers, and operational staff, it was clear that the changes were being felt by all.

Anne Sharp, Chief Executive at Acas opened the conference, describing how the modern workplace is evolving. So what has changed?
The recession has played a huge role in shaping people’s experience of work. Latest findings from the Workplace Employee Relations Study show that almost fifty per cent of workplaces report that the downturn has had an effect on their workplace. But there are also other notable changes taking hold. Anne explained that people are working for longer, with older women in particular working past retirement. But conversely young people are struggling to find work and have little exposure to the workplace. The UK Commission’s Employer Perspectives Survey corroborates this, showing that only a quarter of employers take on a young person for work experience placements.
Along with changes amongst the working population, there are also changing work patterns; with a growing tendency for part-time working and zero-hour contracts. Where work is subcontracted, employees may find themselves working alongside others with different terms and conditions, and the boundaries around line management become blurred. These situations clearly bring new challenges to employment relations, as individuals seek clarity over their changing work environment. But for employers there is a strong need to adapt to a more transient and dispersed workforce.

The conference also highlighted that conflicts at work are being handled and resolved differently. Fees have been introduced for employment tribunals, placing even more emphasis on the importance of resolving conflict sooner rather than later, and later this year Acas will launch its new early conciliation service. Describing the service, where all potential employment tribunal claims will have to go to Acas first, Gareth Perry, Director of Acas Wales noted that ‘early intervention is crucial before people become entrenched in their views.’
This was a view echoed by those at the conference heavily involved in workplace mediation. This process involves an impartial mediator helping the affected parties to work through their issues, and establish some common ground. The success rate for mediation is good – with seven in ten resulting in resolution – but its real strength is in the way it helps to maintain working relationships.

For the full report please visit: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4714

Special thanks to Rachel Pinto, Senior Research Officer at Acas.

Consultation at work – time to clarify the meaning and purpose

This information has been provided courtesy of Gill Dix, Head of Strategy at Acas.

There has been an explosion in employee involvement in Britain, but it’s in the language used to describe it, rather than the incidence. Terminology is beginning to sprawl: engagement, consultation, communication, direct and indirect involvement, representation, voice and more. But if the meaning of different forms of involvement become conflated, is there a danger that we may take our eye off its real purpose?
Take consultation at work: a method for allowing employees to have their say and contribute to decisions. It’s a statutory requirement in some aspects of health and safety, and redundancy, but what about consultation on other workplace and bigger business questions?

Evidence indicates that effective consultation can pay dividends in how people feel about their jobs and their workplace, but also that consultation provides opportunities for innovation and better quality of decisions making. More managers are also saying that they consult their staff: according the latest Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS), four out of five (80%) managers said they wouldn’t introduce change at work without consulting employees first, an increase from 72 per cent in the 2004 study.

However, two new Acas-commissioned reports on worker representation and joint consultative committees have dug deeper, looking at the structures and nature of consultation. For those who believe that consultation is an important ingredient in productive workplaces, there are some findings that make for uncomfortable reading.
First, the proportion of workplaces where managers and employee representatives (union and /or non union) meet together in joint consultative committees (JCCs) has remained stable at 8%. But there has been a fall in the proportion of workplaces where there are JCCs at a higher-level in the organisation, where arguably some of the more strategic decisions are being made (from 29% in 2004 to 20% in 2011). Legislation may not have made a difference. Overall, the report concludes that, in spite of the legal framework introduced in 2004 to support employee consultation (the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations) there has been no great shift in the volume of organisations with consultative arrangements. The exception was in medium sized workplaces with 100 to 150 employees where the incidence rose from 9 per cent to 20 per cent.

Next, what about the quality of the consultation? When we are asked our opinions, we like to think that we have a chance to influence the outcome. It may be that the final decision doesn’t go our way, but if the process is clear, we can start to understand why.
The proportions of managers saying their normal practice was to use committees at work to seek solutions to problems was consistent and moderately widespread with 40 per cent mainly using this approach when consulting committee members. This sounds like good news, and the figure hasn’t changed since 2004. But there were also signs of consultation processes narrowing. The proportion of managers who said they mainly use committees to seek feedback on a range of options had fallen, from 45 to 39 per cent, while those saying they seek feedback on a preferred management option had risen from 9 per cent to 28 per cent. Worker representatives also reported a decline in so-called ‘options based consultation’

For the full report please visit: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4822

Special thanks to Gill Dix, Head of Strategy at Acas.

TUPE – What businesses need to know about the retention of employment model

November 1 2012 – The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) give domestic effect to the EC Acquired Rights Directive (ARD) on “the approximation of the laws of Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfer of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or business.”

In essence the underlying purpose of TUPE is to protect employee rights in the event of a transfer or service provision change. This is secured by the statutory novation of the employee’s contract of employment.

The RoE Model
The Retention of Employment model (RoE) was originally developed by the Department of Health (DoH) in response to UNISON campaigning several years ago on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes. UNISON negotiated the RoE model as a means of limiting the number of non-clinical staff forced to transfer to the private sector from the NHS under PFI.

In summary the RoE model works as follows:

Stage 1
Employees opt-out of the transfer of their employment under regulation 4(7) of TUPE. The employees must be properly informed of their situation and be freely objecting (see Senior Heat Treatment -v- Bell [1997] IRLR 614, EAT). The objection can be given either to the transferor (generally the public sector employer) or to the transferee (the incoming private sector provider). A model Notice of Objection appears in the box below.

Stage 2
If employees opt-out under TUPE, their employment terminates immediately by operation of law and automatically on the date of the transfer. They have not been dismissed and are legally in the same position as if they had resigned.

Stage 3
However, under RoE the employees are then immediately re-employed by the public sector employer on the same terms and conditions of employment as they previously enjoyed with continuity of service preserved for all purposes, including pension rights.

Stage 4
The final stage in the RoE model is for the employees to be seconded to the private sector provider, but remain employed by the public sector employer. It may be necessary to change the relevant employees’ terms and conditions of employment to make express provision to allow for secondment.

Full article