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Sir Brendan Barber: Workplace predictions for 2018

Monday 01 January 2018

Acas Chair, Sir Brendan Barber, gives his workplace predictions for 2018 in his New Year's blog.

Acas Chair Brendan Barber blog Sir Brendan Barber

Sir Brendan Barber is Acas' Chair, joining in January 2014. Previously Sir Brendan was the TUC General Secretary (2003 to 2012) and sat on the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service Council (1995 to 2004). Sir Brendan was knighted in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to employment relations.

Right across the economy living standards are facing a squeeze. As was recognised in the new industrial strategy recently, improving the UK's productivity is the key challenge that can deliver higher living standards.

I welcome the focus on people in the industrial strategy, as the quality of workplace relations is crucial to business performance and innovation. The year ahead may see elements of the strategy being put into practice and Acas stands ready to play its part.

Next month will see the end of the consultation period on the Financial Reporting Council's new Corporate Governance Code, which includes guidance around how companies can ensure workers have a greater voice in boardrooms. This could herald a new recognition of the importance of workplace relations in our economic performance.

Whatever the progress made on employment relations generally, from time to time disputes will inevitably arise. The Supreme Court ruling in July last year was a significant outcome for those that argued that tribunal fees were a barrier to access justice. Acas' latest stats show that demand for our Early Conciliation service increased by over 20 per cent over the two months following the decision and around a 60 per cent increase in tribunal claims compared to the same period the previous year. Recently released employment tribunal figures reveal that single tribunal claims rose 64 per cent in the three months since fees were abolished.

It is still too early to give a comprehensive analysis of the long-term impact of the Supreme Court decision and we will continue to assess the effect on our conciliation services in 2018.

Differences in pay will also be high on the agenda this year. All large employers will have to publish the differences between men and women's pay in April and we could also see some challenging disputes within the public sector due to tensions around pay not rising in line with inflation.

Whatever the challenges in the year ahead Acas will continue to encourage good workplace relations through its advice and helping to resolve disputes when they arise.

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