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ACAS is the abbreviated name of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The service carries out a number of roles within its duties to promote the improvement of industrial relations. In particular the service is involved with settling trade disputes, and this is the most high profile side of its work. In addition ACAS appoints conciliators to try to assist the parties in tribunal cases to resolve the dispute, i.e. to conciliate.

Conciliators are appointed within the relevant region to the tribunal dealing with the case. The ACAS conciliator is an independent figure in trying to assist the parties in a tribunal case to reach some resolution – be that re-instatement or compensation.

There are restricted powers for ACAS to assist in conciliation prior to a claim being submitted by an individual to an employment tribunal . However, once a claim has been submitted the appointed conciliator is obliged to conciliate if requested to do so by either the employer or individual. Usually the conciliator will first contact the employer to discuss the details of the claim that has been submitted.

The details of discussions with the conciliator are privileged and cannot be raised in any subsequent hearing of the tribunal.

If the parties to a case reach a settlement through the assistance, it will be binding up on them The usual form used to record the terms of such an agreement is known as a COT3 form.

ACAS is also able, either of its own initiative, or on request, to give advice to employers, workers or other organisations on matters affecting industrial relations.

From 6th May 2014 (with transitional provisions applying to those presented on or after the 6th April 2014) anyone wishing to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal will, in most cases, be first required to contact ACAS. This is a requirement under a new early conciliation provision. Individuals will require an early conciliation certificate from ACAS before they can proceed with a claim in the Employment Tribunal. ACAS will be required to try to contact the parties to the dispute. If they cannot contact the other party they will assume that settlement through this conciliation process will not be possible. A period of one month (with some scope for extension) will be given to try to settle the dispute through this conciliation. If at the end of that period ACAS have been unable to contact the other party, or there has been no settlement then it must produce a certificate which the individual will be required to present in order to proceed with a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

The organisation also publishes Codes of Practice, to provide practical guidance on handling and improving areas of industrial relations, such as  the Code of Practice on Disciplinary & Grievance Procedures. These are not legally binding, but are treated as setting out best practice, and will be taken into account, where relevant, within tribunal proceedings. The Code of Practice will has an enhanced status in respect of dismissals that took place after the 6th April 2009 when the previous statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures were repealed. So far as grievances are concerned, there is a transitional period which, broadly speaking, has the effect that grievances raised prior to the 6th April 2009 can still be dealt with under the old Statutory Grievance procedures, whereas those that are commenced after that date should be handled under the provsions of the ACAS Code of Practice.

The Employment Tribunal is able to increase the amount of compensation awarded to a successful claimant when the employer failed to follow the requirements of the Code, and will consider the way,extent, and degree by which the employer (or employee) failed to follow the terms of the Code, in deciding if it should enhance the compensation, and by how much it should do so. The maximum increase under these provisions is 25%, so it is important that employers have and implement procedures that compy with the requirements of the Code of Practice. 


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