Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) last week published its annual report for 2015-2016 showing an increase in early conciliation notifications to 92,000, a rise of just over 10 per cent from the previous year.

Most notifications came from employees (almost 88,000), with a further 4,280 from employers. Although notification is compulsory, use of Acas conciliation is voluntary, but only 10 per cent of employers and 17 per cent of employees did not make use of it.

Acas agreed formal settlements in nearly 17 per cent of Early Conciliation cases and resolved a further 13 per cent of cases without the need for a formal written agreement – for example, the employer agreeing to a new flexible working arrangement or paying overdue wages. In addition, 88 per cent of collective disputes were settled following Acas involvement.

Of the early notifications it received, 33 per cent related to unfair dismissal (37 per cent the previous year); 29 per cent to the Wages Act (27 per cent in 2014/15); and 14 per cent to working time (15 per cent in 2014/15).

Of the ET1 cases it received for conciliation from the Employment Tribunal Service, 55 per cent related to unfair dismissal (59 per cent the previous year); 35 per cent to the Wages Act (32 per cent in 2014/15); and 33 per cent related to breach of contract claims (34 per cent in 2014/15).

In terms of take-up of employee-led early conciliation, only 10 per cent of employees declined conciliation (11 per cent the previous year); while 67 per cent proceeded to conciliation (73 per cent in 2014/15).

Since April 2014 potential claimants have been required to notify Acas before taking a case to an employment tribunal in an attempt to resolve matters between employers and employees without the need to resort to a tribunal.

Jo Seery of Thompsons said: “The report also shows that pay and conditions of employment remain by far the biggest causes of collective disputes, showing that workers continue to bear the brunt of employers’ cost cutting measures.”

To read the report in full, go to: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/5/c/10518-ACAS-Annual_Report___Accounts_WEB_(Bookmarked).pdf