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More businesses using Acas for workplace advice

Wednesday 23 January 2013

The number of businesses using workplace relations experts, Acas, for advice on employment law and good practice has risen according to a survey of British workplaces.

The 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERs), published today, found more businesses with five or more employees wanting expert advice with a 29% increase in managers using Acas since the 2004 survey.

Last year, the Acas helpline answered almost 925,000 calls on employment issues such as the Agency Workers Regulations and the Acas website saw a rise of around 10% in traffic with more than four and a half million visits.

The number of workplaces using grievance and disciplinary procedures that reflect the principles set out in the Acas Code has risen since 2004. For grievance procedures there was a 27% increase.

Ed Sweeney, Acas Chair said:

"Acas welcomes the First Findings from the 2011 WERS. This latest survey gives an important insight into Britain's workplaces during a difficult economic period. We believe workplaces will play a vital role in the economic recovery, and an important part of that process will be how managers handle the challenges they face. At the centre of this is securing a positive employment relationship.

"We know Acas proved to be key for accessing expert advice on redundancy issues at the height of the recession with many businesses looking at alternative ways of working to minimise the impact. It's encouraging to know more managers are using Acas' advice service to get workplace relations right.

"The report also shows that when individuals get into dispute at work a very low number of employers take advantage of using mediation to sort out problems before they escalate. Mediation helps resolve disputes quickly and effectively, minimising stress and cost as well as preserving workplace relationships. I would urge businesses to consider mediation as a method for early resolution of disputes.

"An important focus for Acas' over the course of the next year will be preparing to introduce our early conciliation service. This will come in from 2014 when anyone thinking of making a tribunal claim will need to contact Acas first to try and resolve the dispute before it becomes a tribunal claim".

Other highlights from the WERs report are:

  • In relation to the economic climate, the survey revealed an increase in the number of strikes in the public sector.
  • Three quarters of workplaces changed some aspect of their staffing practices in response to the recession. The most common being a freeze or cut in wages (42%).
  • Grievances raised by an employee are down from 38% to 30%.
  • Three-quarters of managers think it is up to employees to balance their work and family responsibilities - up from 66% to 76%.
  • More employees were committed to the organisation they work for - three-quarters of employees reported feeling loyal to their organisation, up from 70%.
  • Low use of mediation to resolve individual disputes - 7% of workplaces reported its use.

Notes to Editors

1.    The 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study is the sixth in the series, which dates back to 1980. Previous studies were conducted in 1984, 1990, 1998, 2004. WERS is representative of all British workplaces with 5 or more employees, not including the industry sectors of agriculture and mining. The study is representative of almost 750,000 workplaces and 23.3 million employees. The 2011 WERS visited 2,680 workplaces where interviews with managers took place. In addition, over 1,000 union and non-union representatives were interviewed and almost 22,000 employees were surveyed in these workplaces.

To obtain a copy of the report please email wers@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

WERS and a copy of the report can be found at the Gov.uk website www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-2011-workplace-employment-relations-study-wers

The 2011 WERS is co-sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), Acas, and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR). NIESR's involvement is made possible through funding from the Nuffield Foundation.

2.    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. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law. For more information, visit the Acas website www.acas.org.uk.

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