Groups of employees need to trigger negotiations with employees on consultation; they will not take place automatically. The regulations make a clear distinction between where there are pre-existing information and consultation agreements and where there are not.
If no arrangements are currently in place, negotiations can be trigged if a written request is made by 10 per cent of employees (subject to a minimum number of 15 employees).
If information and consultation agreements are already in place, it is more difficult to initiate new negotiations under the regulations. In this case, a written request must still be made by at least 10 per cent of employees in the undertaking. However, if fewer than 40 per cent of employees make this request, the employer can conduct a secret ballot and refuse to enter new negotiations if the request is not endorsed by the majority.
Requesting negotiation through arbitration
Requests for negotiations on information and consultation arrangements do not have to be sent directly to the employer. Where employees are worried about victimisation, requests can be made anonymously via the Central Arbitration Committee, a government body which oversees collective workplace negotiations under law.
The CAC will notify the employer that a request has been made, and ask for information from the employer to verify the numbers of employees in the undertaking and that the required number have made the request.
Where a valid request is made, the employer will be obliged to enter into negotiations within one month with employee representatives elected or appointed by the workforce over an agreement on information and consultation arrangements within the undertaking.
Where a valid request for information and consultation rights has been made an employer must:
- enter into negotiations within a month
- make arrangements for the employees to elect or appoint negotiating representatives, such as union representatives
- conclude negotiations within six months, unless both sides agree to an extension.
When finalised, employee information and consultation agreement must:
- be in writing
- cover all employees in the undertaking
- set out when employees are to be informed and consulted
- provide for information and consultation via appointed/elected representatives or directly with the employees.
If an agreement is reached through negotiation, it must either be signed by all the negotiating representatives or by a majority of them.
If negotiations fail
If agreement is not reached through negotiation within six months or within an agreed extended period, the standard minimum information and consultation provisions will apply. This means that information and consultation representative should be elected for every 50 employees, and kept informed by the employer on the recent and probable future development of the organisations' activities and economic situation.
Any information "must be given at such time, in such fashion and with such content as to enable, in particular, the information and consultation representatives to conduct an adequate study and where necessary, to prepare for consultation".