Employers have a legal obligation to consult staff before they make hard calls. Many clients ask us why they have to consult when the writing is on the wall – “I need to make some changes so I may as well just get on with it”. However, experience has shown us that there is often more than one way to eat an elephant. Whilst you might think it’s fait accompli, other people in your business might come up with a brilliant idea or alternative that could significantly change your thinking or the outcome. To really consult with an open mind, you need to have just that – be open to all sorts of different thinking and concepts. Many employers start consultation with a decision in mind which could be limiting their ability to consider alternatives.
The next question clients ask us is “so how long do I need to consult for”. There is no prescribed duration of consultation, but a good employer will generally take 1-2 weeks to consult properly, and in some cases longer – and by consultation, I mean actively engaging your employees in discussions, providing them with all the information necessary to help them understand why change may be required, giving them an opportunity to come up with ideas and alternatives, making sure the employer truly considers those ideas with an open mind, and potentially re-engaging in ongoing conversations to finetune ideas and options. Only when that period of two-way dialogue has occurred, should an employer make and confirm a decision. Employers are entitled to make change in their business, but they cannot unilaterally make those changes without consulting with people who may be affected by that change.
If you are thinking of making change in your business in 2023 firstly get some expert advice before acting. The days of inviting someone into your office and telling them they no longer have a job because times are tough – are over. Every single person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity when terms of employment could be affected. My rule of thumb when navigating change is to ask myself ‘if this was my son or daughter facing a possible redundancy, how would they like to be treated”.
With the right advice, support and process to follow, employers can make changes without crushing people or forking out large sums of money if they haven’t acted in good faith. Change is difficult and being a leader of change is no easy task. The best results in change, come from diverse perspective and genuine dialogue.
-Senga Allen, Managing Director