Acas has issued a fascinating discussion paper, setting out its views on the 2004 dispute resolution procedures, the future of the tribunal system and the future of conciliation.
Key points include:
- since the pre-acceptance procedures came in in October 2004, 10% of submitted claims have been rejected at the pre-acceptance stage. Less than half have of the rejected claims have been re-submitted.
- the fixed conciliation period (of 7 or 13 weeks) is not assisting settlement of disputes. Parties are not ready to settle so early on; indeed, the 7 week period can almost expire before large employers receive the papers and allocate the case to the correct person within its organisation. As Acas states, "The seven-week period is proving far too short to offer meaningful conciliation in many cases."
- although Acas has a power to conciliate once the fixed conciliation period has expired, it has taken a policy decision not to do so as if it routinely exercised its power to extend the conciliation period, it would undermine the purpose of the legislation. Exceptional cases where it would conciliate outside the fixed period include cases where a large number of unrepresented Claimants are involved, where there have been delays in receiving paperwork from the tribunal offices, or because of the incapacity of a party due to serious illness.
- due to budget cuts and the new performance measure imposed by the DTI (assessing Acas by the number of hearing days saved, rather than the number of cases settled), Acas has taken a policy decision to reduce the amount of time it will spend conciliating short-period cases (such as deductions from wages, breach of contract and redundancy claims). This is because a settlement in a short-period claim is regarded by the DTI as saving 1/4 day, whereas other types of settled cases are regarded as saving a greater amount of hearing time).