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UK workplace tension continues to rise amid unstable employment landscape

Thursday 23 July 2009

The full depth and severity of the recession and its knock on effects on the employment landscape are revealed in a new report published today by Acas, the employment relations service.

  • Recession stimulates 22% rise in unfair dismissal conciliation cases
  • Other employment tribunal cases also increased
  • Demand for redundancy advice soars by almost three quarters

In its annual report - which provides a snapshot of the UK job and employment market - figures show that Acas received over 78,000 (net) conciliation cases from the Employment Tribunal Service - almost a fifth (18%) more than last year.

There was also a significant (22%) increase in unfair dismissal conciliation cases received by Acas over the last year, compared to a decrease in the number of these cases over the last two years. In total, Acas received 55,000 cases which involved a claim for unfair dismissal this year, a rise of almost 12,000.

Calls to the Acas helpline on redundancy have steadily risen over the last year. The helpline - which received around 10-15 thousand calls per week in 08/09 - saw a 100% increase in the proportion of calls requesting advice on redundancy. The helpline also extended its opening hours in April to cover evenings and Saturday mornings, helping satisfy demand. The report also contains case studies demonstrating how Acas has provided tangible help to businesses facing economic hardship, in some cases enabling them to save jobs.

The last year saw Acas taking a leading role in the Government's by preparing its enhanced helpline and conciliation services to help individuals resolve disputes at an earlier stage.

Ed Sweeney, Acas Chair commented: "The figures in this report underline the strain that businesses and individuals have had to face in the last year.

Our helpline - which acts as a barometer for the state of the UK workplace - has seen a huge rise in demand for advice on redundancies. In the face of these challenges, our focus has been on getting the right advice to businesses and employees so that they can ultimately save time, money and stress."

Over the last 12-months, Acas has seen a huge increase in the popularity of its training courses on redundancy, with the number of courses held throughout the UK almost doubling in 2008/2009 when compared to 2007/2008. Acas also helped resolve a number of high profile disputes that hit the headlines.

Ed Sweeney continued: "We are confident that the new guidelines we implemented on dealing with dispute resolution and workplace conflict will have a positive impact over the next year. This will encourage employers and employees to resolve workplace problems early on, to prevent costly and stressful employment tribunals."

pdf icon Annual Report 2008 - 2009 [6Mb]

For all Acas reports and plans, visit


Notes for editors

1. Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It 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.

2. Acas Helpline (08457 47 47 47) is open 8am-6pm Monday to Friday.

3. The Acas website provides a range of advice and guidance on employment relations issues such as discipline and grievance, flexible working and bullying and harassment. Acas also provides training on a variety of workplace topics

4. Net figures are obtained by adjusting gross figures to take account of multiple claims (for example, if 1,000 gross ET1 claims are received - which might possibly include 2,000 jurisdictional complaints - which all arise from the same set of circumstances against the same respondent and all the claimants are represented by the same representative, then Acas will be count that as one net conciliation case.) Net figures are a better measure of conciliation workload than gross figures, which may reflect a small number of very large multiple claims.


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