The Chief Executive of Britain’s top employment relations service is highlighting the challenges for the world of work in 2013.
John Taylor, Acas CE, predicts that pay will continue to cause tension as austerity measures continue. He also highlights the need for employers to motivate and engage workforces.

Employment relations

“The struggling economy will continue to influence Britain’s workplaces.

“With forecasts for continuing long-term austerity measures and a possible triple-dip we may very well see increasing tensions and conflict around pay. Pressure on employers to keep wage costs under control could clash with the desire by employees to catch up with the cost of living – inflation has been outstripping median pay awards for the last three years.

“If inflation and interest rates rise then this will increase wage demands. If the private sector meets these demands through increases in the level of pay settlements then the public sector could see pressure for their pay to catch up after periods of restraint.

“Motivating and engaging staff by other ways rather than pay will therefore be a challenge and may require employers to be more inventive. One way of engaging with staff may be to offer more flexible working arrangements. The Government is proposing to extend the right to request flexible working to everyone not just parents and carers. Acas will be producing a new code of practice and consulting on this in the new year.”

Employee engagement

“In difficult times it is even more vital to listen and engage with your workforce. Every organisation’s success is built on its people – if employers get this right then they are likely to have happier, more motivated staff and a more successful business.

“The Government recently published evidence for effective employee engagement as part of the Engage for Success movement, which Acas is a member of, ensuring that engagement is firmly on the workplace agenda for the future.”


“Our perceptions of the traditional workplace relationship have changed. There has been a growth in outsourcing over recent years posing challenges for employment relations.

“This looks set to continue and businesses will be managing groups of employees with different terms and conditions. Moreover, those employers further down the subcontracting chain are likely to have less control over the terms and conditions of their direct employees.

“Employers need to develop channels for employee voice, so that concerns can be aired early on to tackle potential conflict and consultation is particularly important where there are business transfers.

“Our experience suggests that disputes are far more drawn out in these situations as negotiations extend beyond the direct employer and trade union relationship as terms and conditions are renegotiated with the client as well.”

Acas recently published a discussion paper ‘Outsourcing and the fragmentation of employment relations: the challenges ahead.’

Resolving disputes earlier

“Acas also welcomes a new Chief Executive at the helm this year. Anne Sharp joins the organisation in February from the judicial office and will be ensuring that major projects including early conciliation move forward effectively and efficiently.

“Acas main focus over the course of the next year will be preparing to introduce our early conciliation service which will come in from April 2014. In future 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.

“In 2012 our voluntary Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC) service helped resolve over 21,000 workplace disputes between employers and employees avoiding the need to go to a tribunal. The introduction of Early Conciliation in 2014 will allow us to help even more people resolve their disputes early. Our current PCC service is free to use for both employers and employees – and Early Conciliation will be too. At Acas our advice is always that it is better to resolve disputes at the earliest possible stage, ideally in the workplace itself.”