ACAS is to workplace relationships as Relate is to romantic ones; a national organisation seeking to advise, conciliate and repair those that are broken. With 45 years' experience in this area, their recent report on Estimating the Costs of Workplace Conflict certainly carries some "clout". The statistics are stark; the cost of workplace conflict to UK employers is estimated at £28.5 billion. This is not something we can attribute to the pandemic. The data was collated prior to the upheaval in our workplaces caused by the effects of Covid-19. Anecdotal evidence suggests that conflict lessened during the pandemic, but ACAS warns as employees return to the workplace and changes to work patterns are made against a backdrop of economic pressure and job insecurity, conflict will not stay away for long.

Whilst the report does highlight the rather gloomy stats, it does provide constructive steps to reduce conflict and so reduce costs;

  • investment in effective and early resolution
  • greater emphasis on repairing relationships
  • focus on learning from disciplinary issues not blame
  • remove the three barriers to resolving conflict; lack of voice and representation, remote HR advice and low levels of management skill and confidence 

Early intervention by competent and trained managers working collaboratively and actively with HR colleagues is key. Maybe some questions to address in your organisation are as follows:

  • are managers trained to address conflict within their teams at an early stage and have the tools to repair relationships?
  • are managers competent in carrying out investigations, grievance and disciplinary meetings?
  • are managers supported by the HR function and confident in their advice?
  • do the disciplinary and grievance policies address the impact of conflict in a workplace, and reiterate the organisation's goal to address such conflicts early and with a view, where possible to reconciliation?

Please do contact the employment and pensions team if we can help you with any of these steps.