Acas – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service

Acas, or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service is an organisation which aims to improve working life through better employment relations.

Acas provides information, advice, training and works with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance.

Acas is often thought to be a trade union, however this is not the case. Wikipedia describes Acas as an independent non-departmental public body aimed at promoting good industrial relations practice and provision of information on employment legislation.

Acas is also charged with resolving individual and collective disputes between employers and employees. Acas recently revealed that its website attracted 2.7 million visitors seeking good practice guidance last year.

The 2006-07 Acas annual report also showed a decline in the number of claims to employment tribunals with 84,039 cases compared to 109,712 in 2005-06.

Acas has a reputation for impartial assistance.  Acas conciliation officers occasionally become involved in a case before a claim has been made to an employment tribunal (ET), but this is nowadays much less common than it was in the past. 

Since October 2004 Acas’ duty to conciliate has been limited to a fixed period for many ET claims, including unfair dismissal claims. The fixed conciliation period in most cases is 13 weeks, although that can be extended. This fixed conciliation period rule does not, however, apply to claims brought under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 nor the Equal Pay Act 1970.

Acas Arbitration Scheme: what is it?

The Acas Arbitration Scheme is an alternative to an Employment Tribunal hearing, in which cases of alleged unfair dismissal or claims under flexible working legislation may be decided. Acas was given powers to draw up the Scheme, which has been approved by Parliament, in the Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a method for deciding between two conflicting claims in which an independent person’s decision is binding upon the parties.

Acas also provides guide on its arbitration scheme for the resolution of flexible working disputes.

Acas for HR practitioners Acas - the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service

HR practitioners have a one in five chance that their organisation will be involved in a collective dispute with their workforce over the next 12 months, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication, Employment Review.

Under the regulations all employers, regardless of their size, have to have in place minimum statutory procedures for dealing with dismissal, disciplinary action and grievances in the workplace. There is a legal requirement for them to inform their employees. Most employees have to raise a grievance with their employer before applying to an employment tribunal.

Gibbons Review

At the end of 2006, the government announced a root-and-branch review of systems for resolving disputes in the workplace.

Gibbons Review: A review of employment dispute resolution in Great Britain. The Review was set up to identify options for simplifying and improving all aspects of employment dispute resolution, to make the system work better for employers and employees while preserving existing employee rights. It has considered the current system from end to end, including the 2004 Dispute Resolution Regulations, how employment tribunals operate and the scope for new initiatives to help resolve disputes at an earlier stage.

Acas-related resources on

How to avoid pitfalls in compromise agreements
New Employment Bill aims to simplify dispute resolution procedures

Acas saves UK economy £800m a year by resolving workplace disputes
Dispute resolution is an ongoing problem
Acas identifies workers most likely to make employment tribunal claims
Acas chair warns against lawyers getting hands on new dispute resolution procedure rules
Unions – How to deal effectively with…
Lack of effective dispute resolution training leads to escalation of conflict
Employee relations -Dispute resolution in the workplace
Statutory grievance procedures

Latest Acas articles on

Latest Acas news from other websites

Acas and employment relations: external resources

UK legislation

Employment Act 2002
The Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004
The ACAS Arbitration Scheme (England and Wales) Order 2001

Dispute resolution resources from the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), formerly the DTI

Resolving disputes at work: procedures for discipline and grievances. A guide for employees
Disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures: guidance for employers
Written statement of employment particulars: guidance

Guidance on the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004 PDF (154kB)
New laws for resolving disputes: key information for employers PDF(1.3MB)
Dispute Resolution Regulations – Government Response to Public Consultation  PDF(127kB)
Government Consultation on the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations PDF (244kB)
Full regulatory impact assessment: statutory dispute resolution procedures PDF(134kB)
Dispute Resolution Procedures – Employment Act 2002 PDF (226kB)

Business Link

New situations in which statutory dispute resolution procedures apply

And finally…

Some more bizarre tribunal cases from Guru: Tribunal trawl digs up some real gems

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