How Acas was formed
Our story begins in 1896, when the government set up a voluntary conciliation and arbitration service. We remained under their wing for some time, with only a name change or two (to the Industrial Relations Service in 1960 and the Conciliation and Advisory Service in 1972). Each of these incarnations offered much the same services as we do today.
In 1974, we were renamed the Conciliation and Arbitration Service and separated from government control, with an independent Council to direct us. We added 'Advisory' to our name in 1975 to reflect our full range of services, then finally in 1976 we were made a statutory body by the Employment Protection Act 1975.
1896: The government launches a voluntary conciliation and arbitration service, which also gives free advice to employers and unions on industrial relations and personnel problems
1960: The service is named the Industrial Relations Service
1972: Renamed the Conciliation and Advisory Service
1974: The service is separated from government
1975: Our current name of Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service is finalised
1976: Acas is made a statutory body, under the terms of the Employment Protection Act 1975
1980: Following the Grunwick trade union recognition dispute, Acas ceases to have a statutory role in recognition cases
1993: Acas' statutory duty to promote collective bargaining removed
2000: The Acas Chair and the Chief Executive become two separate roles
2001: Acas introduces its Arbitration Scheme as an alternative to certain employment tribunal hearings
2002: A national telephone number is brought in for the Acas helpline, replacing separate regional numbers
2004: New employment tribunal regulations introduced, which limit Acas' duty to offer conciliation to either seven or 13 weeks for most cases.
2009: Following the Government Dispute Resolution Review (DRR), Acas extends its helpline service and publishes its new Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
In the headlines
During the turbulent days of industrial unrest from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, Acas became a household name. We were linked in the media with high-profile delegations, including the National Coal Board and the National Union of Miners during the miners' strike of 1984. This year also saw the Battle of Wapping, with Rupert Murdoch dramatically changing working practices in the newspaper printing industry.
A new approach
Today, the employment world has mostly moved away from such large-scale disputes. We have moved on too, with our emphasis now on helping businesses to prevent problems before they arise.
Our message is that prevention is better than cure.
We give advice and guidance to 800,000 callers a year via our telephone helpline and promote good practice through our training. We also work with individual companies in partnership with employer/employee/trade union groups to find lasting solutions for their workplaces. Much of our conciliation work is now focused on individual complaints to employment tribunals. These complaints are passed to Acas and at present 75% are settled or withdrawn without ever reaching a tribunal hearing.