Internal Communications

by Val Lawson

Legislation and communication

Pieces of legislation that relate to internal communications include:

  • Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations (ICE) 2004
  • the Companies Act 2006
  • Employment Relations Act 1996
  • the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 / the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996.

While legislation may only be applicable when an organisation has a specified number of employees, they provide a sound basis for good practice for all companies.

Good practice suggests that you also provide employees with information about

  • The job, such as any operating and technical instructions, training and development opportunities, and social facilities
  • The organisation, covering everything from objectives and policies to sales and turnover.

Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004

These regulations (shortened to ICE regulations) currently apply if you have 50 or more employees. They are not automatic, and employees have to ask for them if their employer does not decide to introduce new arrangements voluntarily.

They give employees or employee representatives the right to be informed and consulted on everyday issues such as health and safety and occupational pensions.

Standard provisions give rights to employees to be consulted on

  • the organisation’s recent and likely future economic situation
  • the current and future employment situation and any threats to jobs
  • decisions likely to lead to changes to the organisation and employees’ contracts (for example, reorganisations, changes to working practices and changes in pay).

The ICE regulations aim to give employees increased forewarning of these issues. It is also worth keeping your trade unions or employee representatives informed and consulted about new ways of working, output and quality, training, staffing levels and welfare.

The Companies Act 2006

This Act replaced the Companies Act 1985 (updated 1989) and brought in a new emphasis on corporate social responsibility which included considering the interest of employees within the section on promoting the success of the company.

It stated that the legal regulation of the relationship between employers and their employees requires collective consultation with recognised trade unions or elected employee representatives in a number of specific situations.

The obligation on a company to consider the effects of its decisions and actions on its employees does not, however, derive solely from these consultation obligations. Having regard to the interests of the company's employees has long been a requirement of the internal deliberations of a company's directors as a matter of company law.

Employment Relations Act 1996

Under this Act, employees have the right to

  • Written statements, specifying the main terms and conditions of employment and including pay, hours of work, holidays and disciplinary rules
  • Itemised pay statements, showing gross pay, any fixed deductions and net pay
  • References to employment tribunals

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 / the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996

Employers have a duty to consult all employees on safety matters. There are two different regulations – depending upon trade union involvement – either or both of which may be applicable, depending on the circumstances within the workplace.

Consultation involves not only giving information to employees, but also listening to them, and taking what they say into account before making any health and safety decisions.

Companies must – as far as reasonably practical – provide the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure the health and safety at work of employees. They must also prepare and review a safety policy, and bring this to the attention of employees.

Well-run successful companies have been informing and consulting with their employees for years. Sensible employers know only too well the competitive edge that comes from helping staff feel more valued and involved in the running of their firm or organisation.

Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, 2005