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Acas smashes targets despite rising ET claims

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Employment relations service Acas has exceeded its targets in the face of rising employment tribunal (ET) claims, according to its annual report.

High profile successes for the conciliation and arbitration outfit include the help it gave in resolving the Royal Mail dispute alongside the Trades Union Congress.

In the report, employment tribunals and potential ET claims passed to Acas for conciliation rose by 24.9% on last year. Despite the rising claim count, Acas conciliation succeeded in reducing the potential workload of ETs by 75%, slightly up on last year.

Acas also beat its 70% target of improving employment relations following its intervention in the workplace (81%). In further good news, the percentage of users for whom guidance helped solve a problem at work or reassured them they had taken the right course of action was 76%, exceeding the target of 65%.

Ed Sweeney, Acas chair, said that these figures speak for themselves. “Acas has continued to play a central role in the employment relations arena, not only in resolving disputes but also in providing valuable advice and guidance to employers and employees.”

Research published in November last year by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research showed that for every pound spent by Acas, over £16 is returned, generating benefits worth almost £800 million a year across UK businesses, employees and the economy.

However, one area that hasn’t recorded a rising claim count is the new age laws. Commenting on the Acas results, Chris Ball, chief executive of The Age and Employment Network, said: “With just 2,652 cases claiming age discrimination referred to Acas in 2007/08 and only 120 reaching employment tribunal hearings, it is clear that the fears stirred up about a deluge of cases, accompanied by large payouts, simply has not happened.”

Ball said an explanation could be the “hard to shift” ageist attitudes in workplaces: “Mick Jagger’s 65th birthday at the weekend should not blind us to the fact that when it comes to fighting age discrimination and being able to work on – many less fortunate older workers ‘can’t get no (legal) satisfaction!'”

In 2009, Acas will be preparing for the implementation of the new dispute resolution system, following the Gibbons review and announcement in February by Pat McFadden that Acas will receive up to £37 million extra funding over the next three years.

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Annie Hayes

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