Budget cuts at Acas could hit plans for fixed conciliation periods in dispute resolution

Budget cuts at the arbitration service Acas will hamper any plans to introduce fixed conciliation periods into the dispute resolution procedures, a legal expert has warned.

The government has announced a root-and-branch review of the procedures to make the system work better for both employers and workers.

Richard Fox, head of employment at law firm Kingsley Napley, and chairman of the Employment Lawyers Association’s Tribunal Monitoring Working Party, said the idea of fixed conciliation periods was “flawed”.

“It gives Acas a limited period of time in which to seek to consolidate a dispute right at the outset of the litigation,” he said. “This period comes at precisely the wrong time in the case, for it is before the parties have had a chance to size up the strength of the other side’s case (through exchange of documentation and witness statements).”

The budget cuts Acas is wrestling with could hamper its ability to bring its experience to bear in bringing parties together and resolve disputes that would otherwise go to full tribunal hearing, Fox warned.

Last year, the government announced the service’s budget would be cut by £7.3m to roughly £39m by 2008.

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