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23/10/2021

Conflicts and disputes in the workplace set to rise in Kildare, research indicates

Pic: StockSnap, Pixabay

Pic: StockSnap, Pixabay

Recent research seems to suggest that conflicts and disputes in the workplace are set to rise in firms around Kildare — that's according to one HR group.

The study was conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) on behalf of Adare Human Resource Management (AHRM), and covered over 32,500 employees from organisations representing a cross-range of sectors nationwide.

All research was carried out by telephone interview in April 2021 with 160 HR Directors and Managers.

B&A also pointed out that the results are made even more concerning as it claimed that one in five employers throughout Ireland reported an increase in the cost of managing conflicts this year.

Derek McKay, Managing Director of Adare Human Resource Management, HR partner to Kildare Chamber highlighted challenges around clashing expectations on the part of employers and employees around working arrangements, with a large part of this tension owing to the re-integration of employees and new employees as COVID-19 restrictions ease throughout Ireland.

He explained: "Research carried out as part of our HR Barometer shows that one in five (21 per cent) organisations nationally highlighted increased costs in 2021."

"Our expectation is that this will rise further in 2022."

"For 2019, the last time workplaces were fully open, the number of businesses stating increased costs in managing conflict and disputes was almost double (37 per cent), he added.

Explaining the reasons for the expected increases, McKay elaborated: "There may be differing priorities as people return to the workplace that can cause some challenges."

"From an employee’s perspective, commutes and childcare will again become a headache while employers will be keen to get back to normality as quickly as possible."

He continued: "However, what’s key to getting the balance right and avoid potential issues is communication.

Ensuring a constructive two-way conversation is the best way to understand and manage potential issues.

"Our advice for employers is to continue to be as flexible as practical and be empathic towards employees who may be struggling getting back to the workplace full-time.

And, also be mindful that employees could be juggling caring responsibilities beyond just children so might be uncomfortable returning to the workplace on health and safety grounds.

"Employers will need to demonstrate that they are continuing to provide a safe workplace as they are obliged to do under legislation."

He also warned that employers will need to be mindful of how requests from employees to work remotely are managed, to avoid inviting accusations of perceived discrimination, and said than when agreeing to any requests from employees to work remotely, employers need to be clear in how they make their decisions.

"While remote working may suit certain roles, it won’t necessarily be a blanket decision, so clear communication is vital to avoid claims of potential discrimination or unequal treatment," he explained.

Mr McKay also points out that issues that may have existed pre-Covid may return, including disputes amongst work colleagues: "The significant numbers of employees have been working from home has meant office clashes all but disappeared."

"However, they could raise their head again and will need careful management."

Lastly, Mr McKay indicated that delays in hearings at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) could also prove to be a factor: "The WRC has not been operating at full capacity for the last year and a half, leading to a considerable backlog."

"Together with a potential flurry of new claims, it could take months for claims to be heard, leading to a challenging employee relations landscape."

Mr McKay said that he would like to remind employers that changes to the WRC now means that hearings can be heard in public with parties identified, potentially impacting negatively on the reputation of organisations.

Established in 2003, AHRM is a leading provider of employment law, industrial relations and human resource management to organisations across a wide range of sectors.

Meanwhile, B&A was first set up in 1985 and is currently the nation's largest independent Market Research company.

In addition to aiding businesses in its own county, Kildare Chamber is also the Strategic HR partner to Cork, Drogheda, Dun Laoghaire, Fingal, Shannon, Sligo, and South Dublin Chambers, providing support to hundreds of their member companies.

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