ACAS and Employment Tribunals

Over the years, the role of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has changed significantly. In its early days, it was involved with large-scale industrial disputes, such as the Grunwick dispute, but changes in industrial relations have shifted employment disputes from such high-profile cases, and most disputes regard individuals. ACAS has maintained its role in dispute resolution, but now it takes on a role quite different to that which it did before. In this article, some of the ways in which ACAS can help resolve a case before it gets to a tribunal are explained.

What Is an Employment Tribunal?

An employment tribunal is a special type of court in the UK, which hears disputes between parties on issues of employment. The case is heard by a panel consisting of three members, consisting of a qualified employment judge, a member with a trade union background, and a member with a background representing companies in these disputes.

What’s the Issue with Taking a Case to an Employment Tribunal?

With the tribunal system hearing more cases than any other part of the judiciary according to the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, they can be costly affairs. This is exacerbated by the fact that all the members of the panel have to be paid for their appearance.

To lighten the burden on the public purse of employment tribunals, the government introduced changes to the system in 2013. For the first time, employees were required to pay to bring their case to a tribunal. This was also done to discourage cases unlikely to succeed from being brought before tribunals.

What Is the Role of ACAS after These Changes?

Under the changes, workers who bring cases against their employers claiming discrimination or unfair dismissal now have to notify ACAS so that they can attempt to resolve the dispute, without taking it to a tribunal. The system is incredibly successful, with ACAS claiming that 75% of the cases that they see are resolved or removed before ever making it to a tribunal. In addition, a 79% decrease in tribunal applications has been observed.

What Happens during Early Conciliation?

Early conciliation is a process which is designed to defuse disputes between employers and employees before they reach the judiciary as legal issues. When contacted, ACAS will contact the employer, and try to come to a settlement between the employer and employee. This process is quoted by ACAS as taking less than one day. In the end, if the dispute can be resolved, then the parties can settle out of court, saving both of them time and money.

However, a minority inevitably cannot be solved by ACAS. These cases are given an ” Early Conciliation Reference Number”  which provides evidence to the tribunal that there has been an attempt to resolve the case through them. Speak to ACAS today to see if they can resolve your issues.

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