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Website URL : http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4426

Positive results from Acas research support the launch of Early Conciliation service

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Independent studies commissioned by workplace experts Acas into their Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC) service and the use of early conciliation support officers (ECSOs) show that employers and employees are benefiting from early intervention into workplace disputes.

Early conciliation, a new service from Acas starting next year, will mean that anybody who wants to lodge an employment tribunal claim will have to notify Acas first and will then have an additional month to attempt to resolve the dispute.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) asked Acas to provide Early Conciliation due to the success of a similar voluntary Acas service called Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC).

Acas has published a new evaluation of PCC today alongside studies on Early Conciliation Support Officers (ECSOs), who will be used when Acas' new early conciliation service is introduced. Highlights include:

  • nearly nine out of ten employers who used PCC said that they would use it again
  • two thirds of employees would advise a friend or relative to use PCC if they were involved in a similar dispute
  • eight out of ten users said that Acas was important in helping to resolve their dispute
  • service users reported that PCC was cheaper, easier or more convenient, less traumatic or stressful and resolved their issue more quickly than submitting an employment tribunal claim.

Acas Chief Executive Anne Sharp said:

"These studies demonstrate how much the public value the benefits of our Pre Claim Conciliation service and the skills and experience of our conciliation staff.

"In 2012/13 our voluntary Pre-claim conciliation - a free Acas service helped resolve over 22,000 workplace disputes, saving employers and employees the time, stress and expense of preparing for and attending a tribunal. We know from independent research into PCC that when staff, management time and legal costs are factored in employers save on average £2,700 compared to resolving a dispute once an employment tribunal claim has been made.

"Early Conciliation will give us the chance to help even more people resolve their disputes early. These surveys show that our conciliators and support officers are well prepared for its introduction. Our current PCC service is free to use for both employers and employees and Early Conciliation will be too.

"At Acas our advice is always that it is better to resolve disputes at the earliest possible stage, ideally in the workplace itself.  Our training, good practice guidance and helpline all support resolution of problems.  Early Conciliation extends the part we play in avoiding formal tribunal hearings."

Acas conducted a pilot on the use of Early Conciliation Support Officers (ECSOs), who will be used as the first point of contact in Early Conciliation in three regional offices. Their role is to make initial contact with people making a claim and gather information that is then passed onto conciliators.

The independent research looked at whether the intervention of ECSOs helped PCC. The findings were compared to three control offices that were not using ECSOs. The results showed that:

  • nine out of ten claimants felt that ECSOs were good at explaining the PCC process
  • over seven out of ten reported that their ECSO was very important in making their decision to take part in PCC
  • the average length of time for PCC where an ECSO was involved was eight days compared to 14 days in the control offices where there was no ECSO.

Acas also commissioned independent research on their individual conciliation service, which asked people about their opinions on Acas conciliators. The findings show that conciliators are impartial and highly valued by the people that they help:

  • eight out of ten said that they were extremely, very or fairly satisfied with their conciliator
  • eight out of ten respondents said that their conciliator did not take sides and were even handed
  • eight out of ten respondents said that their conciliator listened to what they had to say
  • a fifth of employers reported that Acas had provided them with information or advice that they thought would help them to avoid a similar claim in the future. The same proportion also said that they had made a change to their policies or procedures as a consequence of the guidance received from the Acas conciliator.

There is more information about Early Conciliation on the Acas website.

Notes to Editors

  1. Acas' aim is 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 members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  2. The independent report 'pdf  Evaluation of Acas' Pre-Claim Conciliation Service 2012 [526kb]' was carried out by TNS BMRB between 21 November 2012 and 8 February 2013. A total of 476 people took part in the survey.
  3. The independent report 'pdf  Acas Individual Conciliation Survey 2012 [1Mb]' was carried out by TNS BMRB with Individual Conciliation cases cleared between July and October 2012. 2625 people took part in the survey.
  4. The independent report 'pdf  Evaluation of the Introduction of a Conciliation Support Team for the Pre-Claim Conciliation Service [942kb]' (ECSO) was carried out by TNS BMRB between 21 November 2012 and 8 February 2013. A total of 783 people took part in the survey. The pilot covered three Acas offices: Cardiff, Glasgow and London. A team of ECSOs were recruited from the Acas helpline and the team was operational over a four month period starting in June 2012 based in the Newcastle office. During that period, helpline advisers referred all PCC referrals for Cardiff, Glasgow and London to ECSOs in Newcastle. These offices were designated the 'experiment' group. The referrals for three other Acas offices: Bristol, Newcastle and the North West, served as a 'control' group, with PCC operating in line with the standard model. The three control offices were chosen as the closest comparison to the experiment offices in terms of size, way of working, and numbers and types of PCC referrals.
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