Moves by Acas to limit the amount of time it spends on dispute conciliation
could result in an increase in tribunal claims, HR experts are warning.
Plans for fixed conciliation periods of seven weeks for fast-track cases and
13 weeks for more complex disputes are due to go to consultation shortly.
Rita Donaghy, chair of Acas, told Personnel Today complaints not settled in
the time would either be dropped or goto tribunal.
"One of the complaints we get is that it takes too long to go through
the whole process. If we put in a fixed timetable it should make the process
run more quickly."
The move will also focus Acas resources at a time when disputes are expected
to rise following the introduction of statutory grievance and disciplinary
procedures and equal pay questionnaires under the Employment Act 2002.
But the employee relations adviser of the Chartered Institute of Personnel
and Development, Mike Emmott warned that limiting the conciliation period in
this way could lead to an increase in tribunal cases if the process was rushed.
Donaghy also revealed that the voluntary arbitration scheme, which was
launched by Acas in May 2001 to help resolve workplace conflicts is to be
reviewed because of a low take-up from business.
"I think people are worried about signing away the right to
appeal," she said.
But, she added, it would remain "a tool in the kit" and might
become more popular as a way of resolving disputes over flexible working rights
being introduced in April.