LRA Research Uncovers Lack of Training in NI to Manage Workplace Disputes

Published on 28 March 2021
Added by Keelin Kelly

Fewer than half of employers in Northern Ireland train managers to prevent or resolve workplace disputes.  This was a key finding of research carried out on behalf of the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) by Cardiff Business School.

Disputes and Their Management in the Workplace – A Survey of Employers in Northern Ireland’, also revealed that managers in more than a quarter of organisations lack confidence to resolve such disputes. 

Furthermore, NI employers lag behind their counterparts in Great Britain in respect of having dispute resolution policies in place, and – where policies do exist – there is a gap between policy and practice in the workplace.  The study also established that these policies rarely include the option of support from a third party, like the LRA, for unresolved conflicts.

Considering the extreme challenges facing businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LRA is highlighting the services it provides to employers and managers.

Chief Executive Don Leeson explains:

“We are acutely aware of the damage Covid-19 – and now the threat of its variants – is doing to our local labour market and economy.  One of the many, devastating impacts of the pandemic is that it has brought uncertainty and instability for many workplaces in Northern Ireland.  Those pressures can lead to disputes.  Now, more than ever employers and managers should seek to prevent disputes and quickly resolve those that do arise, in order to limit damage to morale and productivity.

“We are reminding both employers and employees in Northern Ireland that we are here to help and that all our services are free, confidential and impartial.  Whether it’s a query about employment rights and responsibilities, support to ensure you are meeting your legal obligations and preventing conflict as far as possible, or third party assistance with an unresolved dispute, our team is ready to provide support and guidance,” said Don.

“Our Workplace Information Service has taken approximately a third more calls in the last 12 months.  We are taking on more and more Early Conciliation cases to help parties reach agreement, without needing to go through a public, and potentially costly, tribunal.   Meanwhile, our Certificate in Line Management Practice, which we are now delivering virtually, is helping to build that missing confidence in line managers to handle workplace conflict. It’s equipping them with the skills they need in, what is currently, an even more demanding role,” he said. 

Anyone interested in taking up a free place on the Agency’s next Line Management Certificate, or who needs assistance to resolve a workplace dispute, should contact the LRA on 03300 552 220.  The LRA’s Workplace Information Service is also available for any employment relations query, from Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm on 03300 555 300.

Read the report