acasIndependent studies commissioned by Acas into its Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC) service and the use of early conciliation support officers (ECSOs) show that employers and employees are profiting from early intervention into workplace disputes.

The new service of early conciliation from Acas, which starts next year, will mean that anybody who wants to lodge an employment tribunal claim will have to inform Acas first and will then have an extra month to try and resolve the dispute.

It was revealed that following the success of the voluntary Acas service, Pre Claim Conciliation, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) asked Acas to provide Early Conciliation.

Acas has published a new evaluation of PCC alongside studies on Early Conciliation Support Officers, who will be used when Acas’ new early conciliation service is introduced.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly nine out of ten employers who used PCC said that they would use it again;
  • two thirds of employees would advise a friend or relative to use PCC if they were involved in a similar dispute;
  • eight out of ten users said that Acas was important in helping to resolve their dispute; and
  • service users reported that PCC was cheaper, easier or more convenient, less traumatic or stressful and resolved their issue more quickly than submitting an employment tribunal claim.

Anne Sharp, Acas Chief Executive, said:

“These studies demonstrate how much the public value the benefits of our Pre Claim Conciliation service and the skills and experience of our conciliation staff.”

“In 2012/13 our voluntary Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC) service helped resolve over 22,000 workplace disputes, saving employers and employees the time, stress and expense of preparing for and attending a tribunal. We know from independent research into PCC that when staff, management time and legal costs are factored in employers save on average £2,700 compared to resolving a dispute once an employment tribunal claim has been made.”

She continued:

“Early Conciliation will give us the chance to help even more people resolve their disputes early. These surveys show that our conciliators and support officers are well prepared for its introduction. Our current PCC service is free to use for both employers and employees and Early Conciliation will be too.”

“At Acas our advice is always that it is better to resolve disputes at the earliest possible stage, ideally in the workplace itself.”

Acas recently conducted a pilot on the use of ECSOs, who will be used as the first point of contact in Early Conciliation in three regional offices.

It has been reported that their role is to make initial contact with people making a claim and to gather information that is then passed onto conciliators.

The research looked at whether the intervention of ECSOs helped PCC and the findings were then compared to three control offices that were not using ECSOs.

It discovered that nine out of ten claimants felt that ECSOs were good at explaining the PCC process, while over seven out of ten reported that their ECSO was very important in making their decision to take part in PCC.

It also revealed that the average length of time for PCC where an ECSO was involved was eight days compared to 14 days in the control offices where there was no ECSO.

Acas also commissioned independent research on their individual conciliation service, which asked people about their opinions on Acas conciliators.

The findings suggest that conciliators are impartial and highly valued by the people that they help with eight out of ten saying that they were extremely, very or fairly satisfied with their conciliator.