If your business has 50 or more employees, you may find yourself being required to set up an organised body for the purposes of consulting employees. But even if you’re smaller than that, or haven’t had a request, you may still decide that setting up some kind of formal means for employees to be informed about and consulted on work matters which affect them is something you want to do.
These bodies are usually called Joint Consultative Committees, or works councils, but you may want to call yours something else. Whatever you name it, there are some key principles you need to follow to ensure the committee is effective, fit for purpose, adds value and meets the requirements for any legally-required consultation exercises.
The committee will need a constitution. This should set out things like terms of reference, (ie powers, matters which will be discussed); composition (numbers of representatives, which groups the members represent, how management will be represented); election procedures; periods of office of members; officers of the committee and how they are appointed or elected; arrangements for meetings including frequency, location, time off, minutes; and arrangements for reporting back. A good constitution will be clear and easy to understand, and will avoid confusion and misunderstandings at a later date.
Deciding who sits on the committee
You need to identify which representatives of both management and employees will sit on the committee. This will involve striking a balance between not allowing the group to become too big, which can impede effective discussion and decision making, while ensuring that all relevant groups of employees are adequately represented. Appropriate management representatives need to be appointed also.
Deciding what will be discussed
It should be made clear at the outset what matters the committee will or will not be informed about/discuss. Usual subjects would include things like training, health and safety, working conditions, staffing arrangements and production levels, but there may be other specific areas which are suitable for your business to include.
Meetings, arrangements for reporting back, minute taking and other logistical arrangements need to be clear from the beginning. Consider how often your committee should meet, and also identify a chairperson. This is a key role, as the effectiveness of the chairperson of any committee can make a huge difference to the efficiency, effectiveness and credibility of the committee itself. You may want to rotate this function but consideration should be given to providing training for this role should it be filled by someone who does not have previous experience of chairing.
If you’d like some assistance setting up a staff forum in your business, do get in touch.