High-speed conciliation to slash tribunal levels

Employers and staff involved in workplace disputes will have to take part in
a fixed period of conciliation under new proposals aimed at reducing the number
of employment tribunals.

Rita Donaghy, chair of arbitration body Acas, told Personnel Today she was
looking to introduce set periods of conciliation to help resolve workplace
disputes once employers and workers have exhausted statutory internal grievance

Donaghy explained Acas was planning to introduce fixed conciliation periods
of around seven weeks for fast-track cases, and 13 weeks for more complex
claims such as unfair dismissal.

These set periods would start as soon as a complaint has been lodged with
Acas, and after the completion of statutory internal grievance procedures which
are to be introduced as part of the Employment Act in April.

There are currently no time limits on conciliation, which means disputes can
drag on for months without a decision being reached. Under the proposals
complaints not settled in the time period will be dropped or go forward to a

Donaghy said: "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."

Catherine Prest, an HR partner at law firm Eversheds, said the move would
help Acas staff focus their efforts and resources at a time when more claims
are anticipated with the introduction of the Employment Act.

"A fixed timeframe will give both sides expectation of
progression," she said.

However, the CIPD’s employee relations adviser Mike Emmott warned that
limiting the conciliation process could lead to more tribunals if things are

Plans for fixed conciliation periods are due to go to consultation under the
delayed section 24 of the Employment Act.

By Ross Wigham

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