ACAS identifies the key workplace issues for the year ahead
In our e bulletin no 57 we set out details of the legislative changes we can expect in 2013 and in relation to key workplace issues in the year ahead, ACAS has identified the following:
There seems to be no end in sight to the difficult economic climate and inflation continues to exceed pay awards. ACAS has identified pay and wage demands as a key area for tensions between employers and employees in the coming year. It highlights the importance of employers motivating and engaging staff through more inventive means if pay increases are not an option. Flexible working is seen as one possible way in which this could be achieved. As mentioned in e bulletin no 57, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all qualifying employees in 2014 and ACAS they will be producing a new Code of Practice and consulting on this topic imminently.
Employee engagement has also been identified by ACAS as a key issue for employers this year on the basis that, in difficult times it is more important than ever to have effective dialogue with staff.
The growth of outsourcing raises many challenges for employment relations particularly the tricky issue of managing groups of employees who may have different terms and conditions. ACAS advises employers to develop channels for "employee voice" so that concerns can be raised sooner rather than later to avoid potential conflict. This is particularly important in the context of business transfers. ACAS states that in its experience disputes in these situations are more protracted as negotiations extend beyond the direct employer and trade union relationship because terms and conditions are also re-negotiated with the client.
Resolving disputes earlier
ACAS’s main focus for the year ahead is getting ready for the introduction of the Early Conciliation service in force from April 2014, see e bulletin no 57. The four step mandatory pre-claim conciliation procedure will mean that an individual will generally need to follow this procedure before commencing Employment Tribunal proceedings. According to ACAS, in 2012 their voluntary version of the scheme helped to resolve 21,000 workplace disputes. That scheme is free and will continue to be so when it is made compulsory next year.
Interestingly, the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study, published on 23 January, showed a 29% increase in managers using ACAS since the last Study in 2004 and 925,000 calls on employment issues were made to the ACAS helpline last year. 2,680 workplaces were visited for the Study and almost 22,000 employees surveyed. Other key findings include:
- Grievance raised by employees are down from 38% to 30%;
- Use of mediation to resolve individual disputes was low at 7%;
- Staffing practices had changed in 75% of workplaces as a result of the recession and a pay freeze or pay cut were the most common changes at 42%.
No responsibility can be accepted for any actions based on this information.