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More businesses realise benefit of Acas services

Wednesday 05 July 2006
National 

A growing number of businesses are turning to Acas for good employment relations advice, a recent employment relations survey shows.

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The survey revealed a 60% increase in the proportion of businesses with  10 or more employees using Acas' expertise - up from 16% to 26%. At the same time there was a general improvement in employers' behaviour in relation to employment practices with more managers' putting in place policies and procedures.

Acas became the second highest source of advice for managers in the private sector, with use of its helpline and website services coming out top. The number of people using the website, www.acas.org.uk, has risen consistently with over two million visits last year. Acas also ran nearly 3,000 training events last year, with 40,000 delegates attending, on a range of employment issues including the new age discrimination regulations.

The survey also revealed that more employees are taking advantage of a better work-life balance with a drop in the number working more than 48 hours a week. There was also a decrease in employees raising formal grievances in most cases. The exception was bullying, which has increased.

Rita Donaghy, Acas Chair said:

"I am pleased that employers are recognising the inescapable fact that good employment relations are key to competitiveness and business success. Even small changes in behaviour can make a big difference quickly. It is also encouraging to see the growth in the number of employers putting formal policies and procedures in place. This is key to employment relations success.

"Acas would like to think that there is a connection between changes in manager's practices and the rise in use of Acas' advice and guidance.

"It's encouraging to find that we are making progress in our aim of being the first port of call for employers who need advice on employment issues. We hope this trend continues, but we must not be complacent. The effort must be sustained, while new challenges are coming on stream all the time, most notably the anti-age discrimination regulations, which take effect from October this year."

Speaking at today's conference on the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS), Jim Fitzpatrick, the Minister for Employment Relations recognised the importance of Acas' role saying:

"Acas is playing its part supporting managers with expert advice. After lawyers, Acas have become the most common external source of advice for managers. My wholehearted thanks goes to Acas for such an excellent job."

Other highlights from the WERs report are:

  • Businesses with a formal disciplinary policy - up from 85% to 91%
  • Workplaces that had grievances raised by employees - down from 56% to 47%
  • There was a notable increase in disciplinary procedures being put in place in small, non union firms in the private sector - up from 65% to 80%1
  • Equal opportunity policies - up from 64% to 73%
  • Sexual orientation policies - up from 56% to 70%
  • Businesses with age policies - up 61% to 68%.

Notes to editors

  1. Private sector workplaces with 10-99 employees that do not recognise trade unions
  2. WERS 2004 is the fifth in series of workplace employment relations surveys. Previous surveys were conducted in 1980, 1984, 1990 and 1998. The Cross- Section survey comprised interviews with around 2,300 managers and almost 1,000 employee representatives, whilst over 20,000 employees completed questionnaires, representing response rates of 64%, 77% and 61%, respectively. In addition to this, a Financial Performance Questionnaire was completed by managers in 1,070 workplaces. In a separate Panel Survey, around 950 workplaces that took part in WERS 1998 were revisited to provide an accurate picture of how workplaces had changed in the period between the two surveys. Main fieldwork ran from February 2004 to April 2005 and was conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). Further information on WERS 2004 is available at www.berr.gov.uk/employment/research-evaluation/wers-2004/index.html
  3. "Inside the Workplace: Findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey" (ISBN 0-415-37813-3) by Barbara Kersley, Carmen Alpin, John Forth, Alex Bryson, Helen Bewley, Gill Dix and Sarah Oxenbridge is published by Routledge. (Pb: £23.99, Hb: £80). Editors are welcome to reproduce any of the figures or tables contained in the book. To order a copy please email: book.orders@routledge.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1264 343071. You can also order books online at www.routledge.com/
  4. All findings reported in the book relate to workplaces with 10 or more employees
  5. Details about the WERS Sponsors: BERR drives the UK's ambition of 'prosperity for all' by working to create the best environment for business success in the UK. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is one of the UK's leading research funding and training agency addressing economic and social concerns. The Policy Studies Institute (PSI) is one of the UK's leading independent research organisations. It undertakes and publishes research studies relevant to social, economic and environmental policy. The PSI's involvement in the study was made possible with a grant from the Nuffield Foundation
  6. Acas provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.

For press enquiries please contact Kimberley Huggins or Lou Owen, tel: 020 7210 3894/3920.