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Sir Brendan Barber: Workplace predictions for 2017

Sunday 01 January 2017

Acas Chair, Sir Brendan Barber, gives his workplace predictions for 2017 in his New Year's blog.

Acas Chair Brendan Barber blog Sir Brendan Barber

Sir Brendan Barber is Acas' Chair, joining in January 2014. Previously Sir Brendan was the TUC General Secretary (2003 to 2012) and sat on the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service Council (1995 to 2004). Sir Brendan was knighted in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to employment relations.

History may remember 2016 as the year of surprise voting results that defied polling experts, which ended with a period of industrial unrest. It is unlikely that the year ahead will be quieter and there are many changes on the horizon that will affect Britain's workplaces.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty over how Brexit will impact the UK economy and employment law, much of which is based on European directives and regulations. The position of overseas workers will be a very important issue and how the EU exit affects them could have a huge impact on Britain's businesses.

To help reduce the gender pay gap in Britain's workplaces, large employers will have to report on differences between men and women's pay from April this year. Acas will be launching new advice for employers on best practice to help them comply with the new law.

Gig working has been much in the news of late and is likely to be highly topical during 2017, not least because it is one of the issues being looked at by the Matthew Taylor Review for the Government.

Whilst this form of working offers flexibility for those who want it, our own research has found that many people on zero hours contracts and undertaking agency work are confused about their employment status and rights. This uncertainty can lead to fears around job security and there's been a series of legal challenges against employers recently by workers.

Acas will be looking at gig work in more depth in 2017 and issuing further guidance around the many different types of employment status and accompanying workplace rights later this year.

Acas of course continues to conciliate in disputes between groups of employees and their employers before, during and after industrial action and 2017 looks set to be another busy year for Acas.

We are expecting to see more elements of the Trade Union Act being brought into effect in 2017. And Sir Ken Knight's independent review of electronic voting is also set to report later this year.

Whatever the challenges and opportunities over the coming year, Acas will play its full part in helping to improve the economy by encouraging good workplace relations. Our services are highly valued by those who use them and our latest research shows that for every £1 we spend, there is £13 benefit to the economy.


  • Posted by Acas Admin  |  12 January 2017, 12:25PM

    Thank you very much for all your comments. We continue to have a lot of positive feedback in highlighting key workplace issues coming up in the year ahead. Unfortunately, we cannot cover every single HR issue that will come up or we could end up publishing a long new year dissertation instead a short blog!

    So there will inevitably be workplace issues that many others feel very passionately about that have not been covered and obviously there will be issues or topics that some people may feel are obvious but those views are not necessarily be shared by everyone else.

    The new year blog is not the only place where we cover announcements or issues. For example, yesterday the Department for Business announced a new campaign on the national minimum / living wage that we supported:

  • Posted by Rob Hill  |  12 January 2017, 8:57AM

    Im surprised there is nothing about the need to urgently review the status of COT3 settlement agreements in the light of the Sexton case - shouldnt ACAS be liable for bad advice especially to smaller employers who dont have HR functions or legal teams. There are good people at ACAS but sometimes advice appears a little casual.

  • Posted by Karen Hall  |  11 January 2017, 9:09AM

    I wouldn't exactly call these predictions.... they are more like obvious facts.

  • Posted by Malcolm Martin  |  10 January 2017, 2:40PM

    With respect you have not mentioned another above-inflation rise in the National Living Wage due in April. This will also represent a challenge for many employers.