Doubts over success of new Acas scheme

Employment
experts have warned the long-awaited Acas arbitration scheme unveiled last week
will do little to cut the number of unfair dismissal cases going to tribunal.

The
scheme is central to the Government’s efforts to reduce the number of cases going
to full employment tribunal and will come into effect on 21 May.

Acas,
which drew up the scheme on behalf of the Government, anticipates it will
handle 1,000 unfair dismissal cases in its first year.

But
HR professionals are concerned this is just a drop in the ocean. In 1999 to
2000, there were 53,882 cases of unfair dismissal against employers – a 23 per
cent increase on the previous year.

It
means that the arbitration scheme will deal with less than 2 per cent of the
cases going to tribunal.

Yvonne
Bennion, policy specialist at the Industrial Society, and an expert in the
field, said, “Acas is doing an excellent job, but the best way to cut down on
the number of claims is to increase its funding and resources.

“We
don’t think that this is going to make a huge dent in the number of cases that
Acas is trying to sort out.”

Acas
has recruited 90 arbitrators for the scheme, and a simple
question-and-answer-style guidance document will be available in early May.

Susan
Bell, employment relations manager at GNER, said, “It is very disappointing.
With that number of cases, the new system will be so small that it will make
little difference.”

While
HR professionals welcome the principle of the scheme, they are concerned it
doesn’t tackle the core problem. Denise Walker, head of corporate personnel at
Nationwide Building Society, said, “If this cuts down on bureaucracy, I would
support it. But so few cases go to tribunal that it would be better to try to
get more right in the first place.”

The
Acas arbitration scheme


Both the claimant and employer have to agree to voluntary arbitration


A single arbitrator assesses written statements from both parties


No right of appeal against the final decision


Applies only to simple unfair dismissal cases

www.acas.org.uk

By
Richard Staines

Comments are closed.