When to consult
There is no legal set time limit but you must consult in good time. You need enough time:
- to explain the issues to employees;
- for them to consider it and get back to you with informed responses; and
- for you to consider their response before you make a final decision.
It is advisable to consult promptly and regularly. Regular consultation is better than consulting on a case-by-case basis as issues arise because it allows you to spot potential problems early.
How long the consultation takes will depend on:
- the complexity of what you are asking the workforce to consider;
- how many people you are consulting; and
- how you are consulting them.
If you have a simple issue where you need to consult a smaller number of representatives, you can probably do this in a few days - or deal with it routinely through regular channels of consultation.
If it is a technical matter requiring time for consideration, or consulting an entire large workforce, you will need longer.
For unexpected issues you will not have had time to plan consultation so consider if the issue can be dealt with through one of your normal consultation methods, or if you need to do something different like hold a one-off meeting. The key is to work these matters into your consultation process so that you do listen to the views of your workforce and the issue is not overlooked.
Have procedures in place for settling disagreements about health and safety with employees or their representatives. Consultation will not always result in agreement but you should be able to resolve differences of opinion by being open, explaining the reasons behind decisions, and following agreed procedures for resolving problems.