I have been asked by Acas to send out the following information to practitioners...
The Dispute Resolution Review published in 2007 highlighted the need for services to help employers and employees resolve disputes quickly and effectively without the need to go through formal tribunal procedures.
As a result, Acas expanded its Pre Claim Conciliation Service nationally from April 2009. Initially the service was mainly restricted to unfair dismissal and discrimination cases, but from October 2009 the service was extended to all ET jurisdictions for which Acas has the power to conciliate.
To access this service, the individual, the employer or their representative simply rings the Acas helpline on 08457 474747. In simple terms, if internal efforts (such as disciplinary and grievance procedures) to resolve the dispute have been attempted without success, the dispute is likely to end in a formal ET claim (but no claim has yet been made) and there appears to be an entitlement to bring such a claim, outline details of the dispute will be passed to a conciliator who will quickly contact the parties to offer Acas' help.
To date (end December 2009) there have been over 6000 referrals from the Helpline to Acas conciliators, with around 40% of appropriate referrals resolved. Significantly, these cases are resolved quickly - the median duration of cases by calendar days is for Fast Track (mainly wages) 10 days, for Standard Track (primarily unfair dismissal) 17 days and for Open Track (discrimination) 19.
If conciliation fails for whatever reason, the individual retains their right to enter a formal complaint to the ET should they so choose, at which point Acas conciliation would again be made available. However, our experience shows that a significant number do not pursue ET claims, possibly at least in part because of the information they have received during the PCC process and the opportunity this has given to explore both sides of their dispute in more depth.
More information, including the leaflet Pre Claim Conciliation Explained can be found on the Acas website.