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Good relations at work is key to building a solid recovery in 2015, says Sir Brendan Barber

Thursday 01 January 2015

Sir Brendan Barber, the chair of Britain's top employment relations service, Acas, predicts what lies in store within the world of employment relations for 2015 in a blog published today.

Key highlights include:

  • Coordinated industrial action is likely to continue in the public sector due to tensions over pay;
  • The introduction of tribunal fees for employment tribunal claims will continue to prompt debate around access to justice;
  • Statistics reveal a continuing appetite for zero hours contracts. Acas will be developing some further guidance around their use;
  • Acas' role in successfully resolving disputes will continue in 2015 through its collective and early conciliation services; and
  • Acas will be looking at how to improve UK's productivity after a sharp fall following the 2008 recession.

Sir Brendan Barber said:

"All of these issues will no doubt feature strongly in the 2015 general election debate.

"We believe that prevention is always better than the cure and research shows that businesses that had established good relations with their workers were less likely to have been damaged by the recent recession.

"It is clear that good relations at work is key to building a solid recovery."

On productivity

"Employment has held up remarkably well after the 2008 recession but there's been a sharp drop in productivity with no solution found so far. This has led experts to call it a 'productivity puzzle.'

"The workplace itself can play a big role through workplace management and employment relations. Acas has commissioned a series of papers looking at how to improve productivity and more work is planned in 2015."

On recession recovery in the workplace

"With the economy now beginning to show distinct signs of recovery, workers are expecting this good news to be reflected in their pay packets. This is certainly happening in some parts of the private sector but pay has not risen in the same way within the public sector which is inevitably leading to employment relations tensions.

"We have already seen a number of coordinated days of action in the public sector and I believe this looks set to continue in 2015."

On zero hours contracts

"Our own research shows that many workers on a zero hours contract experience a deep sense of unfairness and mistrust that go beyond the use of exclusivity clauses.

"Many people did not seem to even know that they were on a zero hours contract and some believed they were on a permanent contract due to the length of their service.

"That's why we have decided to develop some further guidance for employers and workers in 2015 around the use of zero hours contracts to help tackle the problems relating to lack of awareness and clarity regarding these contracts."

On dispute resolution

"Resolving disputes is what Acas is best known for and our mediators continue to do an excellent job in resolving collective and individual disputes.

"Whilst it is still relatively early days, the data released so far by the Tribunal Service indicates a significant fall in the volume of employment tribunal claims since the introduction of tribunal fees.  The debate about access to justice will continue.

"Our early dispute resolution service, early conciliation, will continue to offer a free way for employers and employees to resolve their disputes in 2015. It has already been a huge success - we are dealing with around 1600 cases a week and we have dealt with nearly 40,000 cases in the first six months of operation."

Sir Brendan Barber's full blog can be seen at

Notes for editors

  1. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. We aim to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. We help with employment relations by supplying up-to-date information, independent advice and high quality training, and working with employers and employees to solve 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, see About us.
  2. For further information about early conciliation visit
  3. Latest workplace study (WERS) has found that businesses that had established good relationships with their workers were less likely to have been damaged by the recession: Good work relations help businesses through difficult times.
  4. The Acas Policy Discussion Paper pdf icon Give and take? Unravelling the true nature of zero-hours contracts [178kb] is available from the Acas website at:
  5. For media enquiries please contact Shumon Rahman, Senior Media and PR Manager, on 0207 210 3688 / or Sophia Said, PR and Internal Comms Manager, on 0207 210 3680 / For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.