The law is different if there are employees who are not represented under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977, for example if:
- you do not recognise trade unions;
- you do recognise trade unions but representatives have not been appointed or are not about to be appointed; or
- there are any employees who do not belong to a trade union and recognised trade unions have not agreed to represent them.
Where employees are not represented under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977, the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 will apply.
Individuals and representatives
You can choose to consult employees directly as individuals, or through elected health and safety representatives (known as “representatives of employee safety” in the Regulations), or a combination of the two.
If you have a small business, or you have regular contact with all your employees, consulting with individuals is often effective. It gives everyone a chance to have a say in health and safety matters. However, consulting individuals is not practical for all businesses, and consultation through elected representatives may work better.
The size or spread of your workforce may make it unrealistic to consult everyone individually. You may want to arrange for your employees to elect representatives of their choice. See:
Although by law health and safety representatives appointed by trade unions have more functions than representatives elected by employees, you can choose to give your elected representatives extra roles, as long as they agree to this.
If you are consulting more than a few representatives, it is better to do so in a structured forum like a health and safety committee, joint consultative committee, or works council. See Health & Safety Committees - Setting them up and making them work.