ACAS is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for the UK. It is a non-departmental government body (NGO), which is largely funded by the Government Department for Business Innovation. It is governed by an independent Council which means that it can operate in an independent, impartial and confidential manner.
It offers three types of services to employers; these are Advice, Conciliation and Arbitration. These services are typically used by UK HR professionals to help them to apply the sometimes complex employment laws in the day to day operational and management environment of the workplace.
Many of the services offered by ACAS are free at the point of demand and some must be paid for. We have outlined the main ACAS services below.
ACAS Advice Service
One of the core services of ACAS is advice. Employment legislation can be complex and esoteric which can make it hard to interpret. For these reasons, it can sometimes be applied incorrectly by HR professionals. This can lead to employe relations issues, employee dissatisfaction and even employment tribunals.
The role of ACAS is to take the employment legislation directly from the written statutes and to act as a go between, communicating that information to HR professionals in a simpler and more pragmatic manner. Rather than going directly to the legal statutes, HR professionals can go directly to the ACAS web-site to find practical and easy to follow information on how to apply employment law in a range of areas including: contracts, working hours, leave entitlements, equality, disputes and mediation, health, well-being, and much more. UK HR professionals can therefore use the ACAS employment law advice portal to help them manage their day to day employee relations issues in a fair and effective way. This entire service is free.
ACAS also has a helpline which is open six days a week and an HR professional can phone this line and receive a second opinion or clear guidance from an adviser on how to handle disputes or relationship issues in the workplace. The ACAS telephone support team can provide HR professionals with advice about employment rights and rules and best practices also.
ACAS offer a more advanced service to HR professionals. This involves an ACAS specialist visiting the employer’s business, diagnosing employee relations issues, and establishing training and support to address these issues.
As an HR professional in the UK, if your organization is going through a large change initiative, which will affect a lot of employees such as large scale redundancies, you could use the services of the ACAS consultants to help you through this process. Typically, an organization would need to pay for this service.
As a UK HR professional, you may find that your businesses is facing an employment tribunal claim from an employee. This can be a long and drawn out process for both claimant and defendant. ACAS offer a free conciliation service to all employers which UK HR professionals can use to try and resolve a dispute during the tribunal application stage, before it gets to a tribunal hearing. This is called conciliation.
UK HR professionals can also make use of the ACAS mediation service. This is a similar process to
conciliation, however, mediation is used to resolve work-place agreements in order to avoid employees making a tribunal application in the first place. Depending on the circumstances, this service may need to be paid for.
This is another ACAS service which can be of help to UK HR professionals should an employee lodge a tribunal application against their business. Arbitration is an alternative to the employment tribunal scheme. If both claimant and employee agree it, the employment claim can be heard by the ACAS arbitration scheme. The ACAS arbitration panel can make a ruling in the same way as a tribunal and the ruling is binding and there are only limited mechanisms for appeal. The advantage of this approach is that the arbitration process tends to be faster, private, informal and generally less legalistic than the tribunal service.
The ACAS service is an invaluable service for UK based HR professionals providing them with advice and support in applying employment legislation in the work-place and in managing work-place disputes and employee relations issues.