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Acas' response to the Government's Resolving workplace disputes consultation

Wednesday 30 March 2011

The Acas Council today welcomed the Government's proposal for all potential employment tribunal claims to be offered early conciliation with Acas first.

In its submission to the Government's consultation document Resolving workplace disputes, the Council said the plans would enable the expansion of Acas' successful Pre-Claim Conciliation (PCC) service.

Over three quarters of disputes that are appropriately referred for PCC do not go on to become tribunal claims but the scope of the service is currently limited by the fact the Acas Helpline is the main source of referrals. Although this provides substantial coverage, the proposals the consultation puts forward would enable Acas to reach all potential claimants.

Acas Chair Ed Sweeney said:

"Acas Pre-Claim Conciliation (PCC) is a highly effective way of resolving disputes before they reach an employment tribunal and offers substantial savings for employers, employees, and the taxpayer. It is quicker, cheaper, and less stressful, and if we can offer early conciliation in more cases we can multiply the benefits of this very successful service."

Whilst the Government propose to offer early conciliation for individual disputes they have asked to be convinced that it will be equally effective for multiple claims.

Mr Sweeney added:

"Excluding multiple claims from early conciliation would be a false economy. They are potentially the most costly of all cases for the parties and the taxpayer if they go the distance whilst even registering the claims involved can place a high administrative burden on the Tribunals.

"There is no evidence that PCC is less effective for multiple claimant cases - in fact it has actively resolved 69 per cent of them since it started in April 2009".

The submission also shows that Acas:

  • Support the proposal of a 'stop the clock' provision to allow early resolution of the potential claim - but propose the suggested period of one calendar month could be extended by up to two weeks in certain circumstances
  • Disagree with the proposals that unfair dismissal cases should normally be heard by an employment judge sitting alone, and that the Employment Appeal Tribunal should be constituted to hear appeals with a judge sitting alone. Acas says lay members can add value to decision making in cases that entail an appreciation of the practical realities of day-to-day workplace employment relations - particularly claims of discrimination and unfair dismissal where a test of reasonableness applies
  • Believe there is a risk that if organisations make routine use of compromise agreements in nearly all terminations some managers could grow over-reliant on them as a 'safety net', and might be less inclined to embark on the difficult conversations necessary to address issues such as behaviour, performance or attendance at an early stage
  • Believe mediation should not be regarded as a 'cure all', but as one component of an overall conflict management strategy which includes effective training for managers and workplace representatives; and is underpinned by fair, effective workplace procedures applied consistently in appropriate circumstances.

Notes for editors

  1. The pdf icon Resolving workplace disputes - a consultation response [401kb] is available to download in PDF format
  2. Independently-conducted research into users' experiences of the PCC service shows that PCC carries a significantly lesser time burden than tribunal claims, both for employees and employers:
    • Employees spent a median of 7 days on an ET claim; slightly more than 8 days if the claim went to hearing and more than 6 days if the claim was settled by Acas.  This compares with a median of 5.7 hours on a PCC case
    • Employers spent a median 5 days on an ET claim; 7.5 days if the claim went to hearing and 5 days if the claim was settled by Acas. This compares with a median of 1 day for PCC cases
    • Including staff time and administration and legal costs, the average cost of resolving a PCC case for employers is £475, and the average cost of dealing with an employment tribunal claim is £5,685
    • For employees, the average cost of resolving a PCC case is £78, compared with £2,929 for dealing with an employment tribunal claim.
  3. Acas is the employment relations service. We are an independent statutory body governed by a Council made up of employer, trade union and independent representatives.

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