Acas and Early Conciliation: Anne Sharp
Monday 14 April 2014Anne Sharp, Acas Chief Executive, discusses Acas' purpose and the launch of the Early Conciliation service earlier this month.
Anne Sharp has been Chief Executive at Acas since February 2013.
The other day I was reading an article by an executive coach who's worked for many years with both men and women in the public and private sector. I was struck by a comment about how many of both genders are held back by a lack of confidence. This certainly chimed with my experience - indeed supporting people to build confidence in their strengths and fulfil their potential is an immensely satisfying aspect of a manager's work.
Confidence is also a characteristic of organisations - as in the case of individuals, the over confident can head for a fall, but it's important also to realise full potential. And getting organisational ambition right is something I've been thinking about in the context of the first Acas Strategic Plan, which we released recently.
As you would expect, our core purpose of improving the world of work for the benefit of organisations and individuals is unchanged, as is the nature of what we do. What has changed is the level of our ambition. We decided we needed to be more up front about what we want to achieve - improved performance of organisations and better quality working life; disputes resolved at the earliest stage and future conflict avoided; Acas leading debates on employment issues using the insight from our experience and research; and developing ourselves as a flexible and resilient organisation that uses the skills of its people to provide value for money and excellence.
Of course we've got plenty of scope for continuous improvement and need to adapt to the changing needs of our customers - but these are exciting challenges. And we've plenty of experience to build on; our people have great skills; and we're governed through a Council whose members are closely connected to the perspective of employers, employees, the legal and academic world. Crucially, we also gain unique insights from contact with millions of organisations and individuals every year.
Our new free Early Conciliation service that started on 6 April is one of these exciting developments. Anyone thinking of making an Employment Tribunal claim now needs to contact us first. We then offer conciliation to try to resolve the dispute quickly without the need for a tribunal hearing. Importantly, the new service improves on what we offered in the past by allowing an extra month for conciliation before people hit the deadline for making a claim.
It's a simple concept, designed to reduce the costs, time, anxiety and uncertainty for everyone involved, as well as for the public purse. Practical implementation took a couple of years of hard work and planning across the organisation. Not surprisingly, we were holding our collective breath about how the first few days would go - as things turned out, we dealt with over 500 cases within four days of launch and settled the first Early Conciliation case within 24 hours.
There are still a few myths out there, such as the fact that conciliation will be compulsory (a contradiction in terms). We're continuing to working hard to share accurate information. If you want to hear it from the horse's mouth, follow this link: www.acas.org.uk/earlyconciliation.