This guide, produced in collaboration with the Involvement and Participation Association (IPA), outlines the changes to the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) regulations (which give employees rights to request their employer makes arrangements to inform and consult them about issues in the organisation).
Based on case study interviews, the guide goes on to highlight effective methods for setting up and running employee forums. Employers can use this guide to take advantage of the benefits on offer from effective information and consultation arrangements, particularly in improving 'voice and representation', one of the seven dimensions of job quality.
About the IPA
The IPA exists to promote the involvement and participation of employees in their places of work, and through doing so improve the quality of working lives. The IPA is Britain’s leading organisation delivering partnership, consultation and employee engagement in the workplace. Through our research and practice we develop new ways of working, based on trust and collaboration that deliver better workplaces and better outcomes – employee wellbeing, increased productivity and improved services.
The IPA is a not-for-profit organisation, funded by membership subscriptions and fee income from consultancy, training and research services. We are one of the few ‘open spaces’ in the UK where employers, trade unionists and other workplace representatives, academics, legal experts, human resource and employment specialists can come together with politicians and policy makers to discuss and debate employment issues and policy.
Taking advantage of the benefits of information and consultation bodies
In the UK, employees have a statutory right to request information and consultation arrangements in their workplace (to allow a meaningful two-way dialogue between management and the workforce, usually via elected representatives), governed by the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) Regulations 2004. An amendment to these regulations lowers the threshold of employees needed to trigger a formal request to set up ICE arrangements in their workplace from 10% of the workforce down to 2%.
Employers will not be legally required to change their current practice unless they receive an official request from their workforce but given the benefits on offer it is highly advisable for employers to take a more proactive approach. Employers can take advantage of these benefits by following the recommendations from the guide, getting ideas from our case studies and making use of the supporting resources.
Listen to the executive summary and download the guide, executive summary, case studies and supporting resources below:
Listen to the executive summary of the ICE guide
Benefits of effective information and consultation bodies
There is strong evidence, both from the academic literature and from our case studies, of the benefits organisations with effective information and consultation arrangements enjoy. These include:
Dealing with change
One of the things that effective ICE arrangements are most valued for is their ability to support organisations undergoing periods of change. Successful change management relies on good communication and consultation with the workforce – this is where effective ICE arrangements can come into play, both as a way for management to disseminate information to the workforce about the changes and to receive feedback on what is and isn't working. This allows better workforce communications and improves buy-in around change programmes.
Building and sustaining trust between workers and management is a challenge for any organisation. The process of setting up ICE arrangements can itself generate trust as employees see that their views are being taken seriously. The real trust building, however, is a gradual process that occurs over time as workforce and management representatives build a relationship and come to exchange views and information. The more employees feel that management are being open and honest with them, the more they will come to trust in management decision-making. Similarly, the more workers feel they can put forward their views in the confidence they will be listened to, the more trust scores will climb.
Improved engagement and productivity
There is a wealth of evidence linking employee engagement to productivity, at both an individual and organisational level. An effective ICE forum is a very powerful tool for boosting employee engagement and unlocking this potential productivity and performance. Effective ICE arrangements can help support some of the key enablers of engagement, providing a vehicle for employee voice, a channel to help management develop and communicate their strategic narrative and allowing the organisation to demonstrate integrity through building a relationship of trust over time (as discussed above).
A sounding board for decisions
One of the major benefits of ICE arrangements that senior leaders found at the case study organisations was what one CEO described as a 'good sanity check' for important decisions. Having the chance to test how the workforce might react to major decisions in a confidential setting before they are announced gives important information and feedback to executives that they could use to tailor their messaging or reconsider a potentially problematic approach.
Ideas from the workforce
As well as helping raise awareness of significant workforce concerns that need addressing and providing an early warning system for potential crises or issues, information and consultation arrangements can also serve as a vehicle to put forward more positive employee suggestions for business improvements. Examples of ideas and suggestions from the workforce were widespread at all the case study organisations we looked at and included well-being rooms, pay review changes and ways to better involve commercial partners in events. This can lead to greater innovation and problem solving in the organisation and encourages more people to put things forward in future.
Higher job satisfaction and quality of work
'Voice and representation' has been identified as one of the seven dimensions of job quality. Workers able to express their voice in a clear and informed way are more likely to be able to secure the other aspects of a good job, including better job design, better work-life balance and so forth. This leads to higher job satisfaction and quality of work which, while clearly of benefit to workers, also poses many advantages for employers. In a time when companies' reputations are more than ever open to scrutiny by customers and prospective employees through websites like Glassdoor, it's more important than ever that organisations ensure their workers feel valued and listened to.
Key lessons for employers
- Be proactive and involve the workforce in the design of information and consultation arrangements.
- Ensure there is a strategic focus at all meetings and provide reps with training so they can correctly identify this type of strategic issue.
- Have a clear constitution and terms of reference so roles, responsibilities and purpose are clear.
- Elect a representative group of reps, thinking about length of term and constituencies.
- Decide which senior management representatives will attend meetings and ensure their buy-in and ongoing commitment.
- Establish a clear agenda setting process and agree frequency of meetings.
- Use reps as a sounding board for management decisions where possible.
- Provide reps with adequate training and support to allow them to perform their role effectively.
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