Consultation with Employees

Last reviewed on 18/04/2013 10:39

This page gives information on the benefits and importance of consulting with employees on matters of health and safety and advice on good practices for such consultations.

You will also find details of legal duties and obligations and links to further information.

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Why is consultation with employees important?

Consultation with employees on health and safety is vital to ensure health and safety is managed effectively.

It requires employers to bring to their attention any issues or concerns that relate to the health, safety, and welfare of all employees.

Consultation helps promote a positive health and safety culture, and ensures that everyone is given an opportunity to influence health and safety policies and procedures.

Without co-operation between employers and employees, the chances of managing health and safety effectively are reduced.

Everyone can be affected if such communication fails, and the chances of things going wrong are increased. There are many examples where failure to consult and communicate has led to serious accidents.


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Legal duties and obligations to consult with employees

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSCR) 1977 These regulations allow for formal consultation between Trade Union appointed Safety Representatives. The employer must consult those safety representatives on matters affecting the group, or groups of employees, they represent.

Members of these groups of employees may include people who are not members of that trade union. The employer is also required to offer facilities and time for the Safety Reps to carry out their duties, including time off to attend an approved training course.

The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (HSCER) 1996These regulations cover employees not represented by Trade Union appointed Safety Representatives. The employer can choose to consult with their employees directly or through elected representatives.

If the employer consults employees directly, they can choose whichever method suits everyone best. If the employer decides to consult employees through an elected representative, then employees have to elect one or more people to represent them.

These representatives do not have the same legal rights as a Trade Union appointed Safety Representative, but in practice most employers offer them similar rights.

To view the full text of the above legislation online, please follow the links under Legislation.


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Conducting employee consultations

You need to set up formal arrangements to enable consultations to be carried out. The two sets of regulations governing consultations mean that employers can take a different approach, depending on circumstances. Whatever the circumstances, employers must ensure that some method of consulting and sharing of information is in place.

Health and Safety Committees If two or more Trade Union appointed Safety Representatives request it, then the employer must set up a health and safety committee with representation from employees and management.

There are no hard and fast rules on numbers, but the committee must be representative of the workforce and management.

Trade Union Safety Representatives Trade Union Safety Representatives have the right to investigate hazards at work, can carry out inspections, investigate accidents and raise any issues or complaints brought to them by employees. They can also discuss and receive information from health and safety inspectors.

Representatives of Employee Safety Representatives of Employee Safety do not have the same rights as Trade Union appointed Safety Representatives to demand that a safety committee is set up, but it is often a good idea to create one and offer them a place on it.

The employer has more choice on how they can consult with employees in these circumstances.


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Good practices in consulting with employees:

When to consult

An organisation that takes its responsibilities seriously, and offers an open door to employees' concerns and ideas, is likely to be more successful in managing health and safety effectively.

Consultation with employees must be carried out on all health and safety issues that could have an effect on employees, including:

  • changes in policies, procedures or processes
  • arrangements for assistance by competent people
  • hazards, risks and their control measures including policies, procedures and safe working practices
  • planning of health and safety training
  • consequences arising from the introduction of new technology and processes.

To be effective, consultation needs to take place at a stage that offers employees a chance to prepare a response and offer meaningful dialogue.

Simply deciding on changes then telling employees what they are is not consultation.


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Good communications

As well as via formal consultations, employers should consider discussing or passing on information by other methods:

  • have health and safety as a regular topic at all departmental or management meetings
  • regularly update information on notice boards and displays
  • pass on information via newsletters and internal publications
  • send e-mail alerts to staff
  • place a safety page or section on company intranet or internet site
  • add information to pay slips by printing messages on them or using inserts.

Don’t be afraid to try new methods – if the information is acted upon and prevents an accident, it will have been worthwhile.


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Foreign workers/workers who do not understand English well

Employers must consider how to communicate essential information to workers who do not speak or read English, or who may have difficulty understanding written or spoken English.

Employers may need to deliver information through a translator or use visual presentations, rather than delivering written or oral instructions. Some employers are making more use of photographs and diagrams in work instructions, etc.

Employers should also consider whether workplace safety signs and signals can be clearly understood and make changes where appropriate.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides many of their publications in multiple languages. A full list of available publications can be viewed via the HSE's Other Languages pages (external site).

If someone wishes to speak to them in their own language, the HSE also offers a telephone interpreting service (external site).


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Further information on consulting with employees

Free guidance from the Health and Safety Executive Note – all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to download or order these resources:

Priced guidance from the Health and Safety Executive Note – all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to order these resources:


→ View The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (HSCER) 1996 (external site).


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