Many employees and employers can feel lost when disputes arise between them. ‘How do I get things sorted?’ they ask. ’What are my rights?’ And ‘Is there anyone who can help me?’ Often parties feel that there is no option but to litigate and escalate the matter resulting in acrimony between the two.
This can be a particular issue where an employment relationship continues to exist. Generally speaking, it can be difficult to continue on as normal when an employee is pursuing litigation against an employer and this can result in strained relationships on both sides. This is where the government-backed organisation known as Acas can come in to lend assistance.
Acas Early Conciliation
‘Acas’ stands for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, and it provides free and impartial information and advice to employees and employers alike on all aspects of the workplace and employment law. Acas can often assist with disputes between employees and employers, and work to resolve problems that arise. They are an extremely useful option for any parties in dispute, and can offer mediation services and distance between parties before a dispute develops beyond the point of no return. You might recall that Acas were heavily involved in facilitating negotiations between the British Medical Association, NHS employers and the government during the dispute surrounding new terms for junior doctors.
Acas also provide training and tailored advice to employers, so can play a key role in prevention of disputes, as well as resolving them after they have arisen.
If all else fails and an employee wishes to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal, then it is a mandatory requirement for the employee to go through the Early Conciliation process. The purpose of this is to:
- Promote the settlement of employment-related disputes at an early stage; and
- Reduce the need for claims to be brought in the employment tribunal.
Effectively, this gives the parties one last chance to consider settlement and avoid litigation. If settlement is reached, then it can often become legally binding even without the need for agreements to be signed by either party, as conciliators have the power to validate final agreements.
Some of the many advantages of Acas Early Conciliation include:
- Allowing an employee to secure a good reference as part of settlement terms, something not available to the tribunal to decide;
- Saving time and money (it’s free);
- Removing personal animosity from the discussion, as negotiations are facilitated through a neutral third party; and
- Restoring trust and avoiding a permanent breakdown of the employment relationship.
More information about Early Conciliation is available here.
The Employment Department at Lyons Davidson deals with claims for both Employees and Employers. If you would like more information about any of the issues raised in this article please contact David Leslie, Partner, by emailing [email protected] or calling 0113 368 7804 or Michael Tait, Senior Associate, by emailing [email protected] or calling 0117 904 7723.