Year of discontent may be on the horizon for UK employers

2006

British university lecturers may have just settled their long-running dispute over pay, but employers are predicting a possible union backlash over the coming year over growing levels of wage restraint and business restructuring.

A survey of 431 employers by trade magazine IRS Employment Review has found more than half believe there is a possibility they will become involved in a dispute of some form or other in the coming year.

The most likely cause of disagreement is pay (38 per cent), followed by business restructuring (23 per cent) and changes in working practices (28 per cent).

The proportion of employers saying these were the most likely causes of disputes had doubled over the past 12 months, said IRS.

"These findings provide the first evidence that the task of re-organising and restructuring organisations is not just the hardest task facing employers, but also one of the most likely to provoke a backlash from the shopfloor," concluded the research.

More encouragingly, the publication also found that more than a of employers saw an improvement in their absence levels last year.

More than half also anticipated a drop in absence over the next year, with just under a quarter said there had been a rise in absence levels in 2005.

As in previous years, stress-related absence seeing the greatest increase and was the biggest worry form employers.

More than a of employers said it had worsened over the year, and only 11.6 per cent said it had improved.

Nearly one in five of the employers polled said there was an increase in other common mental health-related absences in the past year.