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Government recommends expansion of Acas early conciliation service

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Workplace relations experts Acas have welcomed Government plans to expand its pre claim conciliation service. Today's announcement, included in the Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation, means all potential employment tribunal claims will be offered early conciliation with Acas.

Under the new system anyone intending to make an employment tribunal claim would need to notify Acas of this in the first instance. Acas would then have a specified time period in which to provide conciliation. If this didn't resolve the matter a claim to a tribunal could then continue.

Acas Chair, Ed Sweeney said:

"We are delighted that the Government recognises the success of Pre claim conciliation and has recommended the service becomes a more formal part of the dispute resolution system. This will mean greater access to earlier intervention in workplace disputes and ultimately more long term, positive working relations.

"Pre claim conciliation was introduced in April 2009 and since then we have helped 38,000 employers and employees avoid the cost, stress and anxiety of an employment tribunal. In 2010 three quarters of potential disputes that qualify for PCC were kept out of the tribunal system.

"This announcement will mean significant changes to the work of our highly experienced conciliators and the systems and processes that support them. We will be working with our sponsor Department, BIS, over the coming months to work through the details more closely."

In 2010 independent research found that when staff time and legal costs are factored in, businesses who resolve disputes through the service save £3,700 on average, compared to costs involved once an employment tribunal claim has been made. And employees save on average nearly £1,300 when resolving a PCC case compared with dealing with an employment tribunal claim.

Acas currently has a discretionary power to provide pre claim conciliation. The scope of the service is currently limited. To accommodate the changes announced this will be changed to a duty. Acas will continue to offer conciliation once a claim has been lodged to a tribunal. The changes will be in place by 2014.

Notes for editors

  1. In 2010 27 per cent of potential disputes that qualify for PCC resulted in a tribunal claim.
  2. Demand for the service continues to rise and we expect to deal with 20,000 Pre claim conciliation cases during 2010/11
  3. The saving of £3,700 includes the average cost of legal advice and representation together with staff and senior management time across all stages of the process. These estimates focus on the relative costs of the two processes; settlements and tribunal awards are not included in the calculations.
  4. The independent research was carried out among 1,188 employers, employees and representatives who used the service between April and December 2009 and 4027 claimants and employers in Employment Tribunal applications in 2008.

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