2012: Employee Morale Slump and Workplace Disputes Expected

Small businesses must take extra steps to avoid workplace disputes and increase staff morale this year, Acas has said, warning that 2012 will be challenging for employers.

The employment relations service said that many businesses would struggle to keep staff committed in the current economy, with workers feeling the pressure of pay cuts and long hours.

Acas pinpointed employment relations and the early resolution of workplace grievances as key issues for firms over the coming year.

"In 2012 we could see tensions where employees are looking to make up for the payand other concessionsmade during the recession,"

said Acas chairman Ed Sweeney.

"Economic difficulties and tensions in the workplace have by no means disappeared."

"If inflation continues to rise, the mood for industrial action over pay claims is alsolikelyto rise," he added. "We could be in for a bumpy 12 months."

Ben Wilmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, advised small firms to "focus on people management", to ensure that staff felt valued.

"Job insecurity, heavy workloads, pay freezes and high levels of personal debt are all adding up to a toxic backdrop for many workers. In times like these, it becomes even more important to pay attention to internal communication. Engage with staff, listen to their ideas and tackle any disputes early on to prevent them going to a tribunal."

The most common workplace grievances involved poor performance management, according to Wilmott, in cases where staff felt undervalued or unfairly judged.

"Typically, it’s where bosses ignore underperformance and then crack down too heavily. You can’t simply exit staff out of a business — people have to be given the chance to improve, through coaching or extra training, for instance."

Make sure you’re managing your staff well and read our business advice on 11 tips for successful management, communicating with employees and motivating employees.

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