The State of Employment Relations in Britain

Pub. Date
06 September, 2013

Keynote at the sixth and final seminar in the ESRC-funded series on 'Reframing resolution: managing individual workplace conflict'

This presentation used data from the Workplace Employment Relations Studies of 2004 and 2011, and from the annual British Social Attitudes Surveys, to consider: (a) the prevalence of workplace disputes; (b) the quality of relations between managers and employees; and (c) the prevalence and nature of workplace dispute resolution procedures. It showed that the marked rise in the number of claims to Employment Tribunals over the past decade is largely a function of a small number of multiple claims, and that the state of employment relations in Britain's workplaces is broadly unchanged over this period. Indeed there have been some small improvements, although these are restricted to the private sector, with relations in the public sector either being stable or showing some deterioration, depending on the measure. Nevertheless, levels of disaffection or mistrust between managers and employees are still notable. For example: one fifth of all employees say that managers at their workplace do not treat employees fairly. One possible reason why workplace disputes were not more prevalent through the recession may be the heightened levels of job insecurity. Another may be that workplace dispute resolution procedures are now more widespread and more systematic than they were 7-8 years ago. A key feature of the current landscape is the relatively widespread availability of provisions for third-party mediation.