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Sir Brendan Barber launches new report to help solve UK's productivity problem

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Workplace experts Acas have today published a new report, which looks at the important role that workplaces can play in helping to solve the UK's productivity problem.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that output per hour worked in the UK was 17 percentage points below the average for the rest of the major G7 advanced economies in 2013. This is the widest productivity gap since 1992.

Ideas to improve the situation have included improvements to labour force skills, national infrastructure and access to finance but the workplace itself has often been overlooked as part of the solution. Acas' new report Building productivity in the UK builds on over nine million contacts made each year with employers and employees with recommendations on how to help improve workplace productivity.

Acas Chair, Sir Brendan Barber, said:

"Low productivity is one of the most crucial issues facing the country. This new report draws on our expertise and explains the very important role that the workplace can play in addressing the problem.

"We want to help get productivity to a level where the UK can compete with the rest of the world as it will allow us to create a strong, stable economy and reap benefits to both employers and employees.

"The workplace is where the factors of production come together to deliver goods and services. A well-managed, efficient and innovative workplace can bring the improvements in productivity that we all want to see. We've identified seven levers that can help make it happen."

The seven levers are:

  • Well designed work: jobs and work organised in ways that increase efficiency and make the most of people's skills.
  • Skilled line managers: managers with the confidence and training to manage and lead effectively.
  • Managing conflict effectively: systems in place to reduce the likelihood of problems arising and to deal with problems at every stage.
  • Clarity about rights and responsibilities: a working environment where everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.
  • Fairness: employees who feel valued and treated fairly.
  • Strong employee voice: informed employees who can contribute and are listened to.
  • High trust: relationships based on trust, with employers sharing information at the earliest opportunity.

The report also opens the debate wider and includes comments and contributions from various other organisations and thought leaders on the role that workplaces can play in addressing the UK productivity problem.

Federation of Small Businesses, National Policy Chairman, Mike Cherry said:

"Improving productivity within the workplace is an important but often overlooked aspect of the debate on the UK's productivity, which is why the FSB welcomes this new report by Acas.

"Enabling small businesses to access the skills they need, including through investing in the training and development of existing staff, is key to boosting business performance. The FSB has long called for reforms to the skills system alongside a more streamlined business support offer from Government, which together meet the needs of small employers and support their growth aspirations."

TUC Assistant General Secretary, Paul Nowak, said:

"The UK is facing an unprecedented productivity crisis, and government, unions and business need to act together to solve it.

"It's in everyone's interests to make sure that skilled and engaged workforces can deliver the gains that pay and profits depend on. But employees cannot deliver productivity improvements on their own. Real change needs higher government investment and employer action to give their staff a genuine voice at work."

The full Acas report is available from Building Productivity in the UK.

Notes to editors

  1. The Acas report Building productivity in the UK contains commentary from TUC, FSB , CBI, CIPD, Engage for Success and UKCES.
  2. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Acas provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. We support good relationships between employers and employees which underpin business success. We also provide good value, high quality training and tailored advice to employers. Our expertise is based on millions of contacts with employers and employees each year. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  3. For media enquiries contact Shumon Ali-Rahman on 0207 210 3688 or For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.