The UK Government announced last month its decision relating to the minimum period of consultation required by law when an organisation is contemplating large-scale collective redundancies. Since the days of Harold Wilson, if 100 or more positions were at risk of redundancy, the minimum requirement for consultation with the workforce was 90 days; from April 2013 this will be halved to 45 days.The rationale for this change is the Government’s belief that having to wait for 3 months before being able to restructure their operations could be detrimental to the well-being or even survival of businesses in difficult times. 90 days was simply too long and didn’t really help anybody. The ability to get themselves reorganised and onto a firmer financial footing quickly, will help businesses return more quickly to the position where they can create new jobs in the future.Not surprisingly, the change has been welcomed by employers’ organisations and condemned by Trade Unions, who argue that this is just another example of the Government making it easier to dismiss people.So is 45 days long enough for both parties to hold a meaningful consultation? And what is the point of consultation anyway?Taking the second question first, the purpose of consultation is to determine whether any alternatives to dismissal of employees are possible. Key to this concept is an understanding that, in law, it is the job that becomes redundant, not the person. Where the need for the work diminishes or disappears, the job holder may or may not end up being dismissed as a result. In a rapidly changing world, business needs change, and products and services that were needed in the past may not serve the needs of the future. The idea is that, before simply consigning job holders to the dole queue, employers and staff representatives (be they union officials or members of the workforce elected for the purpose) should discuss what else might be done to avoid job losses. Perhaps the affected employees could be retrained, or offered alternative employment in other locations or in different parts of the business. Perhaps instead of cutting jobs at all, temporary wage cuts or short-time working might be agreed, if the key imperative is simply the need to save money or reduce production during a downturn in demand.Logic suggests that the larger the number of posts at risk, the longer the consultation may take. Thus, if between 20 and 100 positions are affected, the consultation period must by law be at least 30 days. If over 100 positions are involved, it is currently 90 days, and from April this will be reduced to 45. Will this be long enough?Arguments can be made on both sides. Maybe a longer consultation period could result in more people remaining employed; more time is available for calculating how much money could be saved in other ways compared with the cost of the job losses themselves; employees have more time to consider offers of alternative positions elsewhere in the business, as well as more time to make contingency plans in case they are dismissed. It also means that they continue to receive their salary for longer, before the axe falls – assuming the company doesn’t collapse completely in the meantime.On the other hand, where only some employees in any particular category will lose their jobs and a selection process is being undertaken, having the sword of Damacles hanging over everybody’s head for 3 months can produce huge anxiety and have a detrimental effect on the performance of the business. If a person whose job is at risk is able to find another job before the consultation process is up, they are faced with a dilemma: do they take it and miss out on the possibility of a redundancy payment, or wait and risk losing the new job? And sometimes it is so obvious that there is no practical alternative to job losses, such as when a business is closing down, that the consultation process serves only to prolong the agony for all concerned.The Government believes that 45 days is long enough for a meaningful consultation process, and the majority of CIPD members seem to agree. Sometimes waiting for bad news is worse than knowing it’s coming and being able to make a start on dealing with the situation. And after six weeks of exploring all the avenues, it seems unlikely that many new options will emerge.On this occasion, I think the Government has got it right.