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Consulting employees

Consulting employees

Your legal responsibility

You have a legal responsibility to consult your workforce on health and safety matters. It's important to motivate them and make them aware of health and safety issues. Consultations with employees can help businesses become more efficient in reducing the number of accidents and work-related illnesses.

This article summarises the law that applies to employers and their onshore workforce in the UK.

What should consultation be about?

Consultation must be about your employees' health and safety at work, including:

  • The likely risks and dangers arising from their work, measures to reduce or remove these risks, and what they should do if they have to deal with a risk or danger
  • Any change that may substantially affect their health and safety at work, e.g. in procedures, equipment or ways of working
  • The role and responsibilities of the competent people
  • Any possible health and safety training
  • The health and safety consequences of introducing new technology

You must give employees or their health and safety representatives the relevant information, and they must have them enough time to consider or express their views. You must take time to listen and consider their views before you make any decision.

Trade unions

If your business recognises a trade union

If that trade union has chosen, or is about to choose, safety representatives, then you must consult those safety representatives on matters affecting the employees they represent. This can include employees who aren't members of the trade union.

What law applies?

  • The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
  • The Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1979

If your business doesn't recognise a trade union

You must still consult any employees who aren't in groups covered by trade union safety representatives.

You can consult them directly or through elected representatives. If you decide to consult your employees through an elected representative, then employees have to elect one or more employees to represent them.

What law applies?

  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996
  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996


You must:

  • Make sure that elected representatives get the training they need to carry out their roles
  • Give them the necessary time off with pay
  • Pay for any reasonable costs to do with that training
  • Provide them with the appropriate help and facilities so they can carry out their role

The trade union concerned will offer trade union safety representatives training.

Dismissing employees

By law, you can't dismiss or punish employees because they've taken part in health and safety consultations (whether as an individual or a representative). This includes if they become a candidate for health and safety representatives or take part in voting.

What information should be available?

You must give employees or their representatives enough information so that they can take part fully and effectively in the consultation. If you choose to, you can consult both the employees and their representatives about a particular issue.

You don't have to give information that you're not aware of, or if:

  • It would be against the interests of national security or against the law;
  • It's about someone who hasn't given their permission for it to be given out;
  • It would harm the business (other than for reasons of its effect on health and safety); or
  • The information is connected to legal proceedings.


If you disagree with employees or their representatives about the consultation arrangements, you should first try to agree through the normal procedures in the organisation.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) can become involved if necessary. In Northern Ireland, this will be the Labour Relations Agency (LRA).

Any employee can apply to an Employment Tribunal (ET) (or Industrial Tribunal in Northern Ireland) if they feel they've been punished for taking part in consultations. Representatives who don't get the time off, pay or training can also apply to an ET.

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