‘Momentous changes’ set to take place in UK workplaces in 2016, ACAS boss Brendan Barber predicts

Sir Brendan Barber, the chair of employment relations service Acas,

Sir Brendan Barber, the chair of employment relations service Acas, - Credit: PA

Britain’s workplaces will undergo “momentous changes” in 2016, the boss of employment relations service ACAS predicts.

Writing in a blog published today, Sir Brendan Barber says he believes public sector pay, the new national living wage, the European Union referendum and the UK’s productivity challenge will be key issues in 2016.

Sir Brendan, who is chair of chair of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service Council (ACAS) and a former general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) also warned that pay restraint across the public sector could lead to industrial strife this year.

“2016 will see momentous changes in Britain’s workplaces,” he said.

“The new Living Wage coming in April will require many thousands of employers to change their pay structures. The challenge of preparing for the new apprenticeship levy, to be introduced in 2017, will also be high on the agenda for many businesses.

“Boosting skill levels is, of course, one of the factors that can drive improved productivity and solving the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’ is the most fundamental challenge that has to be met if our economy is to deliver the solid and sustained rise in national prosperity that we all want to see.

“From ACAS’ perspective more attention needs to focus on the quality of workplace relations as a central driver of business performance and innovation.

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“To support that, ACAS will be launching, early in the New Year, an accessible productivity toolkit to help businesses assess their strategies for boosting workplace performance.

“Britain’s economy, while showing signs of recovery, will continue to be buffeted by changing pressures from the global economy. Nearer to home, continuing pay restraint across the public sector may also see challenging disputes in hard pressed public services.”

He predicted that 2016 could also be the year when the UK’s relationship with Europe is determined through the planned referendum.

“The impact of this decision on Britain’s workplaces will be profound,” he said.

“Much of our current settled employment legislation and practice derives from the framework of agreed European law accumulated over recent decades. All of that would be in the melting pot of uncertainty should a decision to leave the European Union be made.

“Whatever turbulences come along Acas will continue to promote best workplace practice and to assist wherever possible in resolving disputes when they arise.”

Sir Brendan Barber’s blog can be seen at www.acas.org.uk/BB2016 from today.

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