This time the experts, Esther Smith and Adam Partington advise on whether a consultation period is required before an HR review.
The question: HR reviews – do we need to consult?
We are an organisation that has grown quite organically. It started with one staff member in 2002 and we now have eight currently employed and one vacant post. Our HR is loose with the function technically managed by the office manager.
With the recruitment of five members of staff in the last 18 months, the office manager’s responsibilities for HR have been casually disregarded and when they have offered advice (particularly on equal opportunity recruitment and Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act) it has on a number occasions been treated as irritating interference.
A couple of weeks ago, two board members called a staff meeting to update us on the status of our CEO’s health and in it they informed us that we would be having a HR review. The review started the following day. I asked the office manager whether they had received advanced notice and they said no. Is this legal?
Further information: The review is apparently of all roles from CEO down, includes the accountant (a supplier) and is ‘to get a feel for how staff feel about the organisation, what is working and what is not’.
Adam Partington, solicitor, Speechly Bircham
There is nothing to prevent the organisation informally discussing with its staff what they feel about the organisation and what they feel is or is not working. As a result of these discussions, issues may come to light which require a more formal process to be followed.
For example, if the organisation seeks to implement any changes e.g. redundancies or changes to the terms and conditions of staff contracts, this would almost certainly require formal consultation with the affected employees.
It is possible that if staff with responsibility for the HR function are being sidelined by the company that may amount to a breach of the duty of trust and confidence but that would depend on the specific circumstances.
Esther Smith, partner, Thomas Eggar
Thanks for your enquiry. An “HR review” can cover all sorts of different things but your e-mail suggests that the management are looking at the structure of roles in the company and to seek individuals’ views on how the business is going. It does not appear that they are looking to restructure roles or change anything.
In this situation the management team are more than entitled to conduct such a review; it is an integral part of running and managing the business and indeed you might have cause to complain if the company didn’t stop to consider how things were going and seek employees’ views!
There is no consultation requirement for such a review as suggested by your e-mail, although if there are to be resultant changes to jobs, roles or terms and conditions of employment then these should be consulted on fully before the company considers implementing them.
Esther Smith is a partner in Thomas Eggar’s Employment Law Unit. For further information, please visit Thomas Eggar.