Tribunal applications fall for the third year running

The number of applications reaching employment tribunal has decreased for
the third consecutive year, according to figures in the Acas annual report
2003, published last week.

Total applications handled by the arbitration service have fallen from
104,000 to 94,000 since 2001 – a drop of almost 10 per cent. The number
withdrawn or settled before reaching tribunal has increased, with 77 per cent
not progressing any further than the Acas stage compared with 75 per cent the
previous year.

Rita Donaghy, Acas chair, believes the organisation has had a big part to
play in this.

"Our good practice guidance helps employers avoid falling foul of
employment law," she said. "By having the right sort of discipline
and grievance procedures in place, organisations can ensure that problems are
dealt with promptly before getting to the stage of an employee putting in an
application to a tribunal."

She claims Acas also played an important role in reducing the number of
applications that were settled or withdrawn.

"We have a statutory duty to contact both employer and employee when an
application is lodged," said Donaghy. "It is a tribute to the skill
of Acas staff in conciliating between the parties that the number of cases
reaching tribunals continues to fall."

She added that Acas would play a key role over the coming year as further
employment legislation is introduced, including the EC directive outlawing
discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief at work.
The remaining Employment Act provisions on statutory discipline and grievance
procedures are also due to come into force in 2004.

"With our unique perspective and practical experience we expect to
contribute to the current and upcoming debates and will play a central role in helping
organisations implement changes successfully," said Donaghy.

By Ben Willmott

Tribunal applications

-There were 94,453 applications in to tribunals 2002-2003
(compared with 98,834 in 2001-2002), covering 162,932 different complaints

-Of these, 77 per cent were settled or withdrawn, and therefore
didn’t progress any further than the Acas stage (compared with 75 per cent last

-Unfair dismissal continues to be the largest category of
complaint with almost a third of applications, followed by applications under
the Wages Act (almost one quarter)

-The number of requests for Acas to intervene in employment
disputes and conciliate between the two sides remained almost the same as last
year – 1,353 compared with 1,371. Pay continued to be the single biggest
category here  


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