The CIPD has published new guidance to help employers set up and run effective employee forums, to give their people a meaningful say on issues that matter to them. 

Produced in collaboration with the Involvement and Participation Association (IPA), the guide will help employers comply with new Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) regulations in the UK, as well as helping organisations and their employees – anywhere in the world – to benefit from improved employee voice.

Employee voice is one of the seven key dimensions of job quality identified by the CIPD and one of five principles of quality work identified in the UK’s Industrial Strategy. It’s particularly important during times of uncertainty and change and has an important influence on people’s ability to secure other aspects of good work, such as better job design, fair pay and work-life balance. In fact, research shows there’s a positive link between voice and job satisfaction.

Voice is good for business too: companies with effective ICE structures have reported major savings as a result – sometimes amounting to millions of pounds – through improved industrial relations, better decision-making and more workforce involvement in innovation. But, only half of employees are satisfied with the amount of involvement they have in decision-making at work.

Matthew Taylor, author of the Good Work review, commissioned by the UK’s prime minister in 2017, has welcomed the guidance as essential reading for employers:

‘In the twenty-first century there is no justification for denying workers their voice. ICE regulations may only be a modest form of industrial democracy, but they have the potential to make staff representation, engagement and meaningful consultation a norm in UK workplaces. To fulfil that potential, we need to make businesses aware of the new arrangements and the benefits they bring. The guide provides valuable examples of good practice and of the way strong employee engagement can help organisations identify problems and develop workable solutions.’

What the regulations say

ICE regulations give employees in the UK a statutory right to demand information and consultation arrangements, such as employee forums, in their workplaces. Information and consultation involves a meaningful two-way dialogue between an employer and its workforce, including formal consultations on legal matters such as redundancies but also on a range of strategic issues affecting the organisation and its people.

The regulations apply to all commercial organisations with 50 or more employees and, as of April 2020, will be triggered when at least 2% of employees (and a minimum of 15 employees) request such arrangements.

The benefits of effective employee voice

Information and consultation arrangements are one way in which to give your employees a voice.

The benefits include:

  • Supporting the business and its people through change 
  • Building trust between managers and the rest of the workforce 
  • Boosting engagement and unlocking productivity 
  • Improving decision-making and problem solving 
  • Facilitating innovation and minimising risk 
  • Increasing job satisfaction and quality of work.

Top tips for employers

The guide draws on the experiences of a range of organisations who’ve already implemented information and consultation arrangements.

Top tips include:

  • Be proactive. Don’t wait for employees to request information and consultation arrangements; involve them in setting them up.
  • Train employee representatives to help them stay focused on issues of strategic importance.
  • Set out clear roles, responsibilities and purpose for any employee forums and a clear agenda for any meetings.
  • Be open and honest. Not only will it help build trust in management decision-making, it will also help to create a culture where workers feel able to speak up.

Why this matters

Employee voice is fundamental to good work and the CIPD believes all organisations should have effective policies and practices that allow employees, including atypical workers such as zero-hours contract workers or agency workers, to easily voice their opinions and raise concerns. One of the CIPD’s principles for better work and working lives is ‘People matter’ – people and their needs warrant the same thought and consideration as other business outcomes, and people deserve a meaningful voice on matters that affect them.

While information and consultation arrangements are not the only way to give people a say at work, used alongside other formal channels (such as surveys and digital platforms like Yammer) or informal channels (such as one-to-one conversations with line managers) they can make a real difference to people’s experience of work.

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About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.