It has been well known for many years that some joint consultative committees (JCCs) have a short life, set up by an enthusiastic manager only to collapse a few years later when circumstances change. Others become established and embedded into the organisations they serve. 

The well-respected national survey, the Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS), includes a subset of workplaces which were surveyed both in 2004 and 2011. This panel of 989 workplaces provides unique data on what has taken place in each workplace over the period. Did those with a JCC in 2004 still have one in 2011? And, given the introduction of the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) Regulations, which came into force progressively from 2005 to 2008 in undertakings with 50 or more employees, how many without a JCC in 2004 now had one in 2011? Once we have this data we can look for factors associated with death or survival which may give hints of causality. 

Not surprisingly, the workplaces which made up the panel survey were larger on average than the whole WERS database. Small firms are often newer ones. Here we focus on workplaces with 50 or more employees, reflecting the coverage of the regulations.

The most important factor associated with the survival of JCCs, as our new report shows, is workplace size.Larger establishments are more likely to have JCCs. Just over a quarter of those with 50-99 employees had a JCC in 2011 in the panel compared with more than half  of workplaces  with between 100 and 499 employees and just over three quarters of workplaces with 500 or more. It is more probable that the JCCs in larger workplaces will still be operating after seven years, as shown in the table. Generally speaking once an establishment has a JCC it is much more likely to survive if it has 100 or more employees. We can only speculate why this is, however: 


  • there is more likely to be a dedicated managerial resource to service the committee; 
  • there is a wider cadre of mangers to serve on the committee; 
  • there are many more employees to call on to stand as elected representatives; 
  • union membership tends to be higher; and 
  • there is a steady stream of issues and decisions to discuss.  

This survival rate is greater if the workplace is owned by a bigger firm, where the JCC (referred to in the table as ‘any JCC’) may be at workplace or higher (divisional or corporate) level , or indeed JCCs operate at two or more different  levels.  JCCs in these type of businesses tended to survive more than in stand-alone businesses


JCC survival rates by workplace size (%)

 Workplace size

 Workplace JCC 2004 and 2011

 Any JCC 2004 and 2011


 50 - 99 employees




 100 - 499 employees




 500 or more





The overall survival rate of JCCs was only 45% ii . That is, a majority were closed down sometime after 2004 but before 2011. It is important to get this rate of churn into perspective. The vast majority of workplaces, 82% of them, did not have a JCC in either 2004 or 2011. While it is disturbing that only a minority of JCCs survive it is shocking that so many workplaces have no arrangements for collective consultation.  Only 7% of workplaces which did not have a JCC in 2004 had one in 2011. However this figure rises to 18% in workplaces with between 50 and 99 employees and 38% where there were between 100 and 499 employees. This may point to some modest legislative influence. 

The probability that a JCC operating in 2004 would still be working in 2011 increased markedly in those places where trade unions were recognised. This puts to bed the canard that unions and JCCs are antithetical. It was also clear that firms with sophisticated HR arrangements, as measured by IiP accreditation, were more likely to keep going with consultation. This was less true among private services firms while public sector undertakings were more likely to have and to hold on to consultative arrangements.  

Some questions asked in 2004 but not repeated in the 2011 survey provided further clues on longevity. It is heartening to find that where the organisation provided training for representatives in 2004 the JCC was much more likely to still be operating in 2011. This was true too where there was a union representative among the JCC members, where meetings were held quarterly or more frequently, and where representatives were elected as opposed to appointed by a manager. Managers who, in 2004, thought their JCC was only ‘fairly influential’ obviously had realistic expectations since these committees were more likely to survive than where expectations were higher. Similarly, limiting the scope for the JCC to considering management proposals for change, as opposed to multiple options, was associated with generally higher survival rates.

Overall the research confirms that the chances of JCC survival and JCC growth are strongly related to workforce and organisational size, among a range of other factors, and that clear and substantial effects of the ICE regulations are hard to identify.  The extent of churn in JCCs is a key issue and one with important policy implications. Not only does it constitute an important contextual factor when assessing the limited impact of the regulations on the incidence and formation of JCCs, but it also highlights the absence of provisions in the regulations designed to promote the sustainability of employee consultation arrangements. Among the factors associated with the survival of JCCs are union involvement, the election of representatives, training for them and frequent meetings. The regulations could and should be amended in these areas to enhance the embeddedness and sustainability of consultation arrangements.

John Purcell, School of Management, University of Bath 

Mark Hall, Industrial Relations Research University of Warwick


This article is based on research funded by Acas.


The IPA recently released a report on the ICE regulations; ICE and Voice – The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations ten years on. It can be downloaded on our website –




(i) Adam, D., Purcell, J. and Hall, M (2016) Churn and Stability in Consultation Arrangements: Reassessing the Impact of the ICE Regulations using WERS panel data. London: Acas

(ii) This is the same survival rate as for workforce meetings where senior managers talk to employees and for team briefings. It would seem that managers can be fickle when it comes to experimenting with communication methods.