Most industrial disputes relate to pay and benefits

More than three quarters of employers are in favour of changing the law to introduce a minimum threshold for industrial action with 47% saying their most recent dispute related to pay and benefits, according to research  by DLA Piper.

Its survey of 507 employers also showed 13% said their last bout of industrial action centred around pensions, while 11% said it was triggered by terms and conditions.

Three-quarters (76%) of employers support government proposals to change the law and introduce a minimum threshold in strike ballots. More than half of respondents believe the government should intervene to prevent strikes in the transport and communications industries – with more support generated from the private sector compared to their public sector counterparts (58% and 37% respectively).

David Bradley, partner and EMEA group head of employment, pensions and benefits at DLA Piper, said: “As the threat of a double dip recession remains, it is worrying industrial unrest is on the rise and potentially could thwart economic recovery.

“In a volatile economy, employers face multiple risks and challenges making it imperative to focus resources and attention on employee relations to protect and nurture performance and profits. We welcome and support the high level of priority employers have given to employee relations in this study.

“The study’s findings provide strong encouragement for the government from business leaders to tighten the laws around strike action. Careful consideration will be required as trade unions already consider existing laws as punitive and disproportionate. A further tightening is bound to bring a greater challenge at a European level based on workers’ human rights.”

Despite the implementation of the Equality Act on 1 October 2010, only 4% of employers with more than 250 employees ranked equality and diversity as the most important staff issue for management to address from a list of five issues. Employee relations was ranked first by 39% followed by employee commitment at 23% then reward/compensation/benefits (19%) and absence management (15%).

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