Conciliation service ACAS has just published its annual report, recording a rise in demand for early conciliation by over 20 per cent compared with the year before.

In total ACAS received just over 132,000 notifications last year, less than three per cent of which came from employers. Of those, 73 per cent did not lead to a tribunal claim being made either because a formal or informal resolution was reached with the parties or because the claimant reconsidered their intention to proceed.

Of the cases which progressed to the employment tribunal, ACAS conciliation resulted in settlement in 51 per cent of cases, with a further 18 per cent being withdrawn by the claimant. In all, only 9,000 cases were decided by a tribunal.

ACAS has continued to conciliate to prevent or resolve disputes between groups of workers and their employer with 607 national and regional disputes in a wide range of sectors in 2018/19. Over the period it recorded over 4,200 group disputes covering around 29,000 individuals. One case involves more than 12,000 individuals concerning equal pay and related jurisdictions.

There were 1,237,245 contacts through the ACAS helpline and advisory services such as the telephone helpline, helpline online, web chat and Facebook messages.

Pay or pay related matters was the top cause of disputes, with ACAS helping to settle 84 per cent of these disputes. In particular, 26 per cent of early conciliation notification forms related to unfair dismissal and the Wages Act; working time accounted for 12 per cent, while breach of contract constituted 10 per cent. With regard to discrimination claims, the most common related to disability (nine per cent), followed by sex and race discrimination (six per cent).

In terms of costs, ACAS estimates that the cost of an inquiry to their helpline (whether voice, Facebook query or webchat) was £7.84; while the cost of processing an individual case was considerably higher at £120. However, the cost of a collective conciliation was ten times more again at £1203; and the cost of an arbitration hearing case came in at £2132.

Emma Game of Thompsons Solicitors commented: "It is clear that ACAS Early Conciliation services continue to be in demand and especially so following the abolition of Tribunal fees in July 2017 and an increase in demand to pursue a claim in the Tribunal now that fees are no longer in place. Whether this trend will continue or will remain steady will have to be seen. We have noted that the knock on effect of the increase in claims is that cases are taking longer to be dealt with at the Tribunal, with hearings often being listed more than a year after they were lodged." 

To read the full report, go to the ACAS website.