How can we involve employees?
The point of having employee representatives is to take on board the views of your workforce and get them involved in the issues. It is an ideal opportunity to promote health and safety messages and encourage co-operation.
It is in everyone's interests to have good candidates stand for the election process. There is a better chance of this happening if the workforce understands:
- how much you value the role of an employee representative;
- what they will have to do and what they will not be expected to do;
- what support and training they will get; and
- what a difference they can make.
Employees are more likely to volunteer if they are clear about what the role involves, and enthusiastic about the impact they could have. You need to make sure you are getting these messages out to them. See How to involve your employees for ideas.
You also need to explain:
- the election process, including the reasonable time employees can have to prepare as a candidate;
- the proposed size of the constituency or group of people they will be representing; and
- the length of time they can serve as a representative.
Once you have explained all this to encourage your employees and asked for candidates to come forward, there could be several outcomes:
- enough candidates;
- not enough candidates;
- no candidates;
- candidates who your employees do not want to represent them.
If there are enough candidates for the number of representatives you need for each group or constituency of employees, you do not need to have elections. However, it is good practice to let your employees have the chance to approve the individuals who have come forward.
Not enough candidates
If not enough candidates come forward to cover the number and groups of representatives you need, you should:
- still allow your employees to endorse candidates that have come forward;
- discuss with the endorsed candidates whether they can represent a wider group of employees until suitable candidates are found; and
- agree a process to carry on finding suitable candidates for the employees without their own representative.
If no candidates come forward, you are still obliged to consult with the whole workforce about health and safety matters. You will have to consult directly with your employees. You can still promote the idea of having representatives and run the election process at a later date.
Candidates your employees do not want to represent them
If your employees do not support their own representative, the consultation process itself is jeopardised because their views are already being undermined. If candidates are not endorsed by your employees, you will have to consult directly with your employees.
If you and your employees both agree that there should still be representatives, you can re-run the election process as well. This may encourage candidates who did not volunteer before to take action, particularly if they reflect the choice of employees more than others.
- Don't decide for your employees - employee consultation is about taking on board the views of your employees...
- Reflect diversity - employee representatives should reflect as far as possible the diversity of your workforce...
- Train your reps - you must work with and train the representatives...
- Give it time - if you and the employee representatives allow time to get used to working together...