The views of employees…
One area of consultation, and it’s a huge one, which the Institute has never really explored is Employee Consultation. It is full of statutory obligations and the added layer of Trades Unions involvement. The vigorous debates happening right now as teaching unions discuss the safety issues around re-opening schools is a pertinent example.
Having constructive discussions with those who are being asked to return to their workplaces as the lockdown is gradually lifted is critical. If people are concerned about their safely, and that of their families, then matters become even more serious than before the virus crisis.
With the prospect of non-essential shops being able to re-open on 15 June, the Government has produced a 32-page Guidance document. In comprehensive detail it deals with Thinking About Risk, Who Should Go To Work, Social Distancing At Work, Managing Your Customers/Visitors/Contractors, Cleaning The Workplace, PPE & Face Coverings, Workforce Management, Inbound & Outbound Goods etc. A fascinating glimpse into the complexities of running the shops and businesses which we all use, but probably never consider everything that happens in the background. The Guidance also contains this instruction:
Employers have a duty to consult their people on health and safety. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work and how you will manage risks from COVID-19. The people who do the work are often the best people to understand the risks in the workplace and will have a view on how to work safely. Involving them in making decisions shows that you take their health and safety seriously…At its most effective, full involvement of your workers creates a culture where relationships between employers and workers are based on collaboration, trust and joint problem solving.
The public and private sectors have to look to adapt their practices and become proficient at no-contact consultation – using both online and offline methods to ensure that people can still have their views heard. It could be that learning how others in different sectors engage, might enable helpful cross-fertilisation of best practice.
The law of consultation has much to say about compliance with guidance and the Gunning Principles provide the standard for the quality of the very important dialogues which every employer will need to have as we move into a post-lockdown world. It will be very interesting to watch as these dialogues take place