CIPD: Acas figures show just 7 per cent of workers reject conciliation route. The majority of employees are open to settling disputes via the Acas Early Conciliation (EC) scheme rather than going through costly employment tribunals, according to official figures.
Acas data showed that 17,145 employees used EC during the first three months after the scheme launched on the 6th of April 2014.
Employees made 16,605 enquiries to the service and 540 were made by employers. Such strong levels of engagement are, in part, due to changes in the law requiring anyone considering an employment tribunal claim to contact Acas first to discuss EC. This mandatory requirement to notify Acas came into force on the 6th of May. But neither party in the dispute is obligated to use the service after discussing the option.
About 1,000 people a week contacted the service in April 2014, rising to 1,600 people a week during May and June. In addition, Acas data revealed that only 7 per cent of workers rejected the option to try and resolve a dispute with their employer before making a tribunal claim, while just 9 per cent of employers refused to take up the service where the employee had already agreed to go ahead.
However, the introduction of tribunal fees of up to £1,200 in July 2013 could be another reason the take up has been strong. Fees have already been cited as the main cause for a 79 per cent fall in claims.
The TUC has said that many employees, particularly the low paid, cannot afford justice, which could also explain this apparent keenness to settle a dispute without going to tribunal.
“The quarter one figures indicate that, despite some of the cynicism that was around when plans for the service were first unveiled, employees have generally been happy to take up the opportunity to talk,” said Richard Fox, head of employment law at law firm Kingsley Napley.
“It would appear many employers are co-operating too. It would therefore seem the new system will further relieve the burden on tribunals and help prevent many claims from ‘going all the way’. But not in as crude a way as simply imposing disproportionate fees which will put off many would-be litigants from advancing their claims.”
Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “We welcome this evidence that early conciliation is helping to resolve workplace disputes without the need for claimants to go to an employment tribunal.
“Although these figures don’t allow firm conclusions to be drawn about the impact on claims volumes, it looks increasingly possible that EC will transform the process of dispute resolution by encouraging employers and employees to resolve issues by discussion, rather than by legal action. The service appears to be facilitating a shift in the relationship between Acas and employers that has the potential to promote wider improvements in employee relations.”
However, Fox added that more work was needed to ensure the ‘free to use’ service, paid for by taxpayers, was not exploited by people with no real intention of bringing a claim to “secure an enhanced settlement ‘on the cheap’“.