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Employee representatives key when facing difficult times - new Acas guidance

Friday 17 December 2010

Acas, the employment relations service, is urging employers to acknowledge the role employee representatives play in contributing to good employment relations and improving change management.

Research estimates there are around 320,000 onsite employee representatives in the UK* who play a vital role in reflecting employee views to their managers, communicating with the workforce and problem solving. There can be a lack of understanding around what employee representatives do in practice and precisely what role they play in disciplinary and grievance discussions and negotiations with management.

Over the past thirty years the role of the employee representative has changed dramatically from focusing on pay and conditions to providing employees with a voice on very specialist areas such as equality, the environment, learning and pensions.

Acas has published a new guide, pdf icon Representation: finding its voice [74kb] which covers:

  • the benefits of employee representation and kinds of employee representatives there are
  • how employee representatives are elected
  • what managers need to do
  • training and self-development
  • communication and consultation on issues such as health and safety
  • legal rights and responsibilities.

John Taylor, Acas Chief Executive said:

"In these challenging times it is even more vital to give employees a voice and to work collaboratively as a team as much as possible. Employee representatives can and do act as useful sounding boards for managers who want to gather opinion on specific ideas or gauge the mood of the workforce. Managers should involve representatives in wider business issues wherever possible.

"Joint working is not an easy option, and is often most effective when representatives from both sides accept that some degree of disagreement is inevitable when exploring differences of opinion."

* DTI (now BIS) 2007

Notes to 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.

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