New laws blamed as major factor in claims to tribunals

Helen Rowe picks out the key findings in the Acas annual report published today

The raft of legislative changes brought in under the Employment Relations Act 1999 is the chief factor behind the big rise in tribunal claims reported in today’s Acas annual report.

But Acas attributes the 32 per cent rise in employment tribunal claims to social factors as well as new laws.

The Working Time regulations and National Minimum Wage provision account for an extra 7,000 cases, according to the report.

An increase of 37 per cent for claims under the protection of wages jurisdiction, which rose from 26,837 to 36,837, may also be due to working time.

The lowering of the qualifying period for unfair dismissal cases from two years to one is estimated to have generated an extra 6,700 cases. The reduction is also believed to have played a role in a 16 per cent increase in the number of breach of contract complaints from 25,110 in 1998-91 to 29,053 in 1999-2000.

The report says a heightened public awareness of discrimination issues, partly as a result of the Stephen Lawrence case, may explain a rise in claims. There was a 22 per cent rise in disability discrimination claims from 2,934 to 3,585. In race discrimination there was an increase of 20 per cent to 3,922.

Despite Acas’s greater workload the report shows it has increased the percentage of cases it manages to settle from 41 per cent to 44 per cent.

And the report says employers can benefit in a number of ways from Acas’s involvement, in addition to settling the immediate dispute.

"Acas conciliators are aware of the wider implications of a case in trying to settle complaints. Many of the complaints act as points of referral for other kinds of help Acas can offer in developing good practice at work."

Acas chairwoman Rita Donaghy added, "These days the name Acas is often used as a byword for thinking ahead rather than patching up and making do. In the end it makes sense to follow good practice, both financially and in terms of employee well-being.

"These figures show that we have an increasingly important role to play."

Comments are closed.