New research into the financial implications of workplace conflict shows the benefit of reviewing contracts and taking advice at an early stage, according to a leading Cheshire employment law firm.
Conflict at work costs UK employers more than £1,000 for every employee each year according to research performed for arbitration service Acas.
However, Latham Parry, managing partner and employment law specialist at Warrington-based Watsons Solicitors, says by dealing with issues promptly and taking legal advice where required, employers can avoid unnecessary stress, keep their workforce happier, save money and ensure they spend more time on their core business.
The report, prepared for Acas by the Universities of Sheffield and Westminster, states the total cost of workplace conflict to UK organisations each year adds up to an estimated £28.5 billion.
Just over one third of employees reported a disputed incident or ongoing difficult relationships, and while just one in twenty resigned over the matter, others take sickness absence, state they are less motivated, and suffer from stress, anxiety or depression.
Latham said: “By having well-prepared employment contracts, policies and procedures in place, and by dealing with issues swiftly, you can often avoid time-consuming (and sometimes costly) disputes and keep your workforce happy. Training managers properly and ensuring that, where necessary, they have access to legal advice, is particularly important.
“This report shows that for a given business, issues are almost certainly to arise eventually, given time, and that costs to the business can increase very quickly.”
The research also suggests that while many employers see conflict as disruption to be contained, the fact that as many as one in three employees are affected indicates a different approach might be beneficial.
“A small issue not met head-on and handled properly can snowball and develop into a significant tribunal claim,” added Latham.
“It can also lead to resignations and then the added cost of hiring new staff.
“It’s a legal requirement to set out the main terms of employment in writing (usually provided in the form of a contract of employment), but it’s good practice to ensure these are clearly set out, and that they afford the protection and flexibility desired by the employer. It’s also important to have them reviewed periodically as laws and regulations do change.
“At Watsons, we offer a fixed monthly fee service for employers, which includes reviewing contracts and policies, or preparing new documents, as well as providing telephone support to give practical and legal advice. Subscribing to this service gives employers the advantage of budgeting for legal fees, as well as having peace of mind, knowing that help is always only a phone call away.”
Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 60 years, specialises in family law, employment law, wills and probate, personal injury, and conveyancing.
The team of experienced solicitors hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.