Arbitration

When there's a disagreement ('dispute') between an employer and an employee or a group of employees, a third party can make a decision on the dispute to settle it. This is called 'arbitration'.

It's better if both sides of the dispute, or their representatives, can resolve the dispute between themselves first. Both sides should try and work something out together or get help from an Acas conciliator.

If this does not work, arbitration can help resolve the dispute.

Using collective arbitration

Collective arbitration can be used for disputes between an employer and a group of employees.

Arbitration is delivered by a neutral person (an 'arbitrator'). The arbitrator is impartial. This means they do not take sides. The arbitrator considers the arguments from both sides of the dispute and makes a decision based on the evidence presented.  

Before arbitration starts, both sides must agree to accept the arbitrator’s decision. They do this by setting out the issues in the dispute, called 'terms of reference', which both sides agree to and sign on an Acas form.

Benefits of using collective arbitration include:

  • it's free
  • it's voluntary
  • it's confidential
  • it's binding – both sides must accept the arbitrator's decision
  • it brings the dispute to an end                              

We'll appoint an Acas arbitrator to hear both sides of the case and make a date for a meeting ('hearing') at a place suitable for everyone, such as at an Acas office.

Before a collective arbitration hearing

Both sides should send the arbitrator and each other written statements of their case and other supporting documents so that the arbitrator can look at all the evidence before the hearing.

At the hearing

The arbitrator will:

  • ask both sides to explain their case – each side is allowed to talk without interruption
  • ask questions to make sure both sides understand all the issues
  • discuss the case with both sides
  • ask both sides to sum up the main points for them to consider

Hearings normally last for about half a day.

After the hearing

The arbitrator will make a decision in writing. This is called an 'award'. Once an award is made, neither side can go to court to get the decision changed at a later date. The process is not legally binding but binding in honour.

The arbitrator's award is sent by Acas to both sides within 3 weeks of the hearing date.

Collective mediation

You can also use our collective mediation service. The process is similar to arbitration but the mediator makes recommendations for both sides to consider to try to reach an agreement.

Find out more about collective mediation.    

Using Acas individual arbitration

You can use Acas individual arbitration to settle certain disputes between an employer and an employee.

You can only use Acas individual arbitration for cases of alleged unfair dismissal and claims under the flexible working legislation.

Arbitration is delivered by a neutral person (an 'arbitrator'). The arbitrator is impartial. This means they do not take sides. The arbitrator considers the arguments from both sides of the dispute and makes a decision based on the evidence presented.  

The benefits of using individual arbitration instead of going to an employment tribunal are that it's:

  • free
  • voluntary
  • informal
  • confidential
  • legally binding 

You can get the same types of outcomes as those in an employment tribunal.

We'll appoint an Acas arbitrator to hear both sides of the case and make an impartial decision. We'll arrange a date for a meeting ('hearing') at a place that’s suitable for everyone, such as at an Acas office.

Before an individual arbitration hearing

Both sides should send us written statements of their case and other supporting documents so the arbitrator can look at all the evidence before the hearing.

At the hearing

The arbitrator will: 

  • ask both sides to explain their case – each side is allowed to talk without interruption
  • ask questions to make sure both sides understand all the issues
  • discuss the case with both sides
  • ask both sides to sum up the main points for them to consider

Hearings normally last for half a day.

After the hearing

The arbitrator will make a decision in writing. This is called an 'award' and it’s legally binding. Once a decision is made, neither side can go to court to get the decision changed at a later date.

The award is given to both parties within 2 weeks of the hearing.

Acas arbitration guidance

Disputes about unfair dismissals

Download our guidance on using Acas arbitration to resolve disputes about unfair dismissals in England and Wales (PDF 289KB, 33 pages).

Download our guidance on using Acas arbitration to resolve disputes about unfair dismissals in Scotland (PDF 293KB, 33 pages).

Disputes about flexible working

Download our guidance on using Acas arbitration to resolve disputes about flexible working in England and Wales (PDF 282KB, 29 pages).

Download our guidance on using Acas arbitration to resolve disputes about flexible working in Scotland (PDF 281KB, 30 pages).

Request Acas arbitration

Acas arbitration support
Telephone: 0330 109 3933
Email: arbitration@acas.org.uk

Or you can write to us at:

Acas 
Euston Tower
286 Euston Road
London 
NW1 3JJ