Acas faces tribunal for sex bias against staff

Half
of the staff at arbitration body Acas are taking their employer to tribunal
over indirect sex discrimination.

The
Public and Commercial Services Union is bringing a single action on behalf of 464
of its members in a dispute over Acas’ length of service payments.

This
week Acas, which employs about 800 people, launches its arbitration scheme
which is designed to provide a fast and confidential disputes resolution
process and help cut the number of cases going to employment tribunals.

Jim
Hanson, spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union, said the
dispute centres on Acas’ pay levels, which are linked to length of unbroken
service rather than the experience and contribution of individuals.

Hanson
said the union’s members are claiming indirect sexual discrimination against
Acas because women who took career breaks to have children were penalised under
the system.

"Someone
who has served 10 years and took maternity leave in the middle might not be
able to qualify for the length-of-service increment, even though they have much
more valuable experience than someone who has been serving their time for 25
years."

The
union’s action, which is due to be heard at a tribunal in Birmingham at a date
yet to be set, will include eight test cases, one for each of the Acas pay
grades.

Most
of the cases involve female staff, but the union is also representing a number
of men.

John
Taylor, Acas’ chief executive, said, "Acas is an employer in its own right
similar to many others in the public sector.

"We
have a problem with our pay structure caused over a number of years by the way
in which pay deals have impacted on the organisation.

"We
therefore called in an external consultant to advise us. It is crucial we get
the pay right for all of our staff. We intend to have a much improved system in
place by the end of the year."

www.acas.org.uk

By Ben Willmott

Background to Acas


Acas, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1999, was set up to prevent
disputes and to promote best practice in the workplace


The increase in the number of complaints received by Acas slowed to 1.6 per
cent last year, compared with an increase of more than 30 per cent the previous
year


The new arbitration scheme is expected to deal with 1,000 cases in its first
year and lift some of the burden from employment tribunals


Arbitration hearings are informal and confidential, and will usually be completed
in one day

Comments are closed.