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Employers report long-term benefits of resolving disputes through Acas

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Independent research has found that Acas intervention in industrial disputes helps reach a settlement in over eight out of ten cases.

More than two-thirds (68%) of employers and trade unions questioned said that, without Acas help, the dispute would have taken longer to resolve, saving parties around five months. They also reported longer term workplace benefits from using Acas:

  • around two-thirds said that their organisation was more effective at dealing with disputes (63%)
  • six out of ten had better communication between management and workers (60%)
  • over half said that they had improved employment relations (55%).

The survey also revealed that it was the skills of the conciliator acting as the impartial third party which was one of the key influences over the likelihood of reaching an agreement to settle the dispute. And around a third of those that were asked said that it might have been beneficial to involve Acas at an earlier stage.

Peter Harwood, Acas Chief Conciliator said:

"These findings show how our experienced network of conciliators play a vital role in resolving industrial disputes quickly and how we have helped employers to implement more productive working practices.

"There is often a misconception that Acas can only be called in when a dispute arises but we can be asked to be informally involved on a confidential basis at any stage of negotiations even when internal procedures have not been exhausted.

"I would encourage employers and unions to come to us for help as early as possible rather than see us as just a last-chance saloon."

The research also found that:

  • almost half of customers decided to involve Acas because conciliation had proved useful in the past
  • seven out of ten organisations using conciliation were from the private sector (69 per cent) with 24 per cent in the public sector and 6 per cent in the voluntary sector.

In the last financial year 2011-12, Acas' collective conciliation service was requested in nearly 1,000 disputes, including those at Vivergo, Cammell Laird, JobCentre Plus and London Underground.

A few months ago Acas helped resolve the dispute between Unite and the main petrol distributors in the high profile fuel dispute.

Notes to editors

  1. Industrial disputes are defined here as a dispute that involves a union or other employee representatives and employers.
  2. The independent research was carried out by Ecorys and is based on a survey of 345 customers of the collective conciliation service between November 2010 and November 2011.
  3. The research found that users of the service were primarily from larger organisations with 1,000 or more employees. Almost half of disputes involved issues around pay (46 per cent) while 22 per cent related to other terms of employment including pensions and leave.
  4. More information about Acas collective conciliation can be found at www.acas.org.uk/cc.
  5. Acas aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.