Covid has meant that many employers have had to engage in a collective redundancy consultation for the first time.
Many of those with a “standing body” of experienced employees’ representatives or a recognised trade union have enjoyed tangible benefits from being able quickly to consult with existing and experienced employees’ representatives. Employers have also benefited from engaging with employees’ representatives of all kinds on a far broader range of issues than might have strictly been required under the letter of their arrangements.
This may therefore now be an opportune time to consider whether establishing an employee forum or strengthening an existing body will be helpful with future labour relations and, if so, what form it should take and what remit it should have. In particular, it would be sensible to consider whether any new or improved body should have a sufficiently strong remit to engage in consultation with a “view to reaching agreement”, as must take place in the context not only of collective redundancies but also TUPE transfers involving measures.
The pandemic has also led to a rise in trade union membership and cooperation between businesses and unions, such as employees’ furlough arrangements being agreed through collective bargaining or the General Secretary of the TUC standing side-by-side with the Chancellor and the Director General of the CBI outside 11 Downing Street. However, unions have also been suspicious of the pandemic being used as a pretext by businesses to cut employees’ hard-won terms and conditions. The development of proactive industrial relations strategies therefore remains more important than ever when planning future resourcing models, to avoid both industrial action and reputationally damaging campaigns again the business, such as for union recognition or against changes such as final salary pension scheme closures.
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