What does the law say?
The law sets out how you must consult your employees in different situations and the different choices you have to make. There are two sets of general regulations about your duty to consult your workforce about health and safety:
- The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
- The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996
These regulations will apply to most workplaces*. The flow chart shows the relationship between the two sets of regulations and how they affect you and your workforce.
These regulations are designed to enable you and your employees to work together:
- to develop, maintain and promote measures that ensure health and safety at work; and
- to check the effectiveness of such measures.
You may only have to consult under one set of regulations, or you may have to consult under both, depending on circumstances.
The presence of a union health and safety representative does not prevent managers from communicating directly with the workforce as a whole. Managers remain responsible for managing health and safety in the workplace and should consult the workforce as necessary.
Where you already have existing consultation arrangements that satisfy health and safety law, you do not have to change them. However, you may want to review your arrangements to make sure that they are the right ones for your organisation now.
If you and your employees disagree about the interpretation of these regulations, you should first use your usual procedure for resolving employment relations disputes. You may find it helpful to involve the Arbitration and Conciliation Service (Acas).However, health and safety inspectors (from HSE and local authorities) can enforce for failure to comply with legal duties on procedural matters. They will decide what action to take in line with HSE's Enforcement Policy Statement [PDF 90KB].
*These Regulations do not apply to offshore installations which are covered by separate guidance, see A guide to the Offshore Installations (Safety Representatives and Safety Committees) Regulations 1989 (L110) and the leaflet Play your part! (INDG421) [PDF 261KB].
For examples of industry-specific regulations with requirements to consult your workforce, see Consulting your workforce on health and safety. Approved Code of Practice and guidance L146