THE chief executive of the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service, Acas, paid a visit to Newcastle yesterday to meet with regional colleagues and discuss major issues in the run-up to Christmas.
Anne Sharp, the first woman to hold the top job at the organisation, has been in the role for the past nine months.
During her visit to the Newcastle office, she met with helpline operators attuned to the main concerns affecting regional businesses, as well as Wendy Parker, local area director.
“It’s really important to me not to get stuck in London, so I’m trying to get round each of the regional offices at least a couple of times a year,” Sharp said.
“This is an opportunity to talk to people one to one about what’s happening locally.”
Acas provides a range of services with the aim of improving organisations and working life through better employment relations. Newcastle is one of its 11 main regional centres.
Sharp said the organisation routinely received contact about grievances and tribunal claims, along with queries from small businesses concerned about employment law.
In the winter, the weather typically threw up a range of problems stemming from illness and absence.
“Newcastle and indeed the whole of the North East has its own challenges,” Parker added.
“We have a very small economic footprint here and lots of small and medium-sized businesses who often don’t have access to HR functions. That can be quite tricky and it’s something that could have an impact on their businesses.”
From April this year to date, there have been 605 applications for Acas’s pre-claim conciliation service in the region. The organisation has also been involved in 72 collective group disputes in the North East.
“A lot of people in the North East are aware of us, but nowhere near as many as we’d like.” Parker said.
“Nationally, we think we are only scraping the tip of the iceberg.”