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Good work relations help businesses through difficult times

Monday 25 November 2013

Businesses with good employment relations practices fared better during the recession according to a survey of British workplaces published today.

The full report of the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) found that private businesses that had established very good HR relations with their employees were less likely to have been damaged by the recession. Whilst those that had not were ten per cent more likely to have been weakened by the recession.

The WERS First Findings, published earlier this year, found that the number of businesses using Acas for advice on employment law and good practice had risen since 2004.

Ed Sweeney, Acas Chair said:

"Our advice at Acas is that good workplace relations can help businesses to succeed and grow. This latest report shows that good employment relations practices can also help businesses when times get tough.

"Our advice and guidance continues to be in demand and is at the forefront of helping employers understand changes in employment law and best practice.

"Prevention is always better than cure and I would encourage anyone that needs advice to come to us as early as possible. Last year our highly experienced helpline advisers handled around 925,000 calls and our website receive four and a half million visits."

Other key highlights from the WERs report include:

  • In relation to the economic climate, the survey revealed an increase in the number of public sector workplaces in which strikes took place, up from 6% in 2004 to 29% in 2011.
  • Low use of mediation to resolve individual disputes - 7% of workplaces reported its use.
  • 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%).
  • More employees were committed to the organisation they work for - 74% of employees reported feeling loyal to their organisation, up from 70%.

The Acas helpline can offer advice on a whole range of workplace issues on 08457 47 47 47 from 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday. To access helpline online visit Helpline Online.

Notes to Editors

  1. The first findings of the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERs) were published on 23 January 2013. It found that there were more businesses with five or more employees wanting expert advice with a 29% increase in managers using Acas since the 2004 survey.
  2. Statistical modelling showed that in workplaces where managers did not report that relations between managers and employees were 'very good' in 2004 were 10 per cent more likely to have managers agree or strongly agree in 2011 that the workplace was now weaker as a result of the recession.
  3. 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.

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

    Employment Relations in the Shadow of Recession: Findings from the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study by Brigid Van Wanrooy, Helen Bewley, Alex Bryson, John Forth, Stephanie Freeth, Lucy Stokes and Stephen Wood is published by Palgrave MacMillan (ISBN 978-1-137-27576-9). To obtain a review copy please contact Brooke Hollingshead on +44(0)20 7654 1923 (or
  4. 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.
  5. For media enquires please contact Sophia Said, PR and Internal Communications Manager, on 020 7210 3680. For out-of-hours media enquiries call 07825 691093.