ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

By Amanda Beattie
27 Oct 2023

As an employer, there is a good chance that you will run into conflict between yourself and an employee. The reasons for the conflict could be down to several things, such as pay and working hours.

How you deal with these issues can be confusing, and if they are done incorrectly could land you in trouble.

In the article, we are going to dive into what ACAS is, how it can help employers, and how their services work.

Two employees talking about the acas code of practice before speaking about trade union duties

What is ACAS?

ACAS is an independent and impartial organisation that helps to improve the working life of employers, employees and the overall organisation.

They offer free advice, information and guidance on the rules and practices for employers, employees and trade union representatives.

What does ACAS stand for?

ACAS stands for the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Taking three separate services that are utilised by businesses to help them reach a suitable resolution.

To understand ACAS fully, you need to break conciliation and arbitration into separate entities and understand how they can help you and your workforce.

Two employers getting ready for an employment tribunal after dismissing someone for disciplinary and grievance issues.

What issues does ACAS help with?

Employers need to understand what kinds of problems ACAS can help with if needed, this could include the following:

How does ACAS help enforce employment law?

ACAS was put in place to help businesses find solutions, improve organisations' performance, solve disputes, and promote good practices in workplaces. ACAS works to help employers avoid large-scale industrial disputes by preventing or solving problems before they become larger disputes, such as strikes.

Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) enforces employment law by providing free impartial guidance on:

  • Best practices, rules and policies,
  • Working with employees to resolve workplace conflicts.

What is conciliation?

ACAS provide Employees with conciliation assistance when employees and employers are looking to make a complaint about their employer at an employment tribunal.

employees in an employment tribunal following the acas code of practice for advice in disciplinary hearing and formal disciplinary.

What's the purpose of ACAS early conciliation?

The purpose of the ACAS early conciliation is to avoid both employers and employees going to an employment tribunal to solve their dispute.

How does ACAS conciliation work?

The main use case for conciliation is to avoid employment tribunals, this is mainly used to help individual complaints, group complaints will go through a different process.

On an individual complaint, ACAS will speak to both parties, arrange a mediator, and aim to reach a settlement agreement without the need for an employment tribunal. You could look at conciliation as the last chance to solve any issues before the employee's claim can be heard at a tribunal. Although once early conciliation period has ended, ACAS can still be involved if the parties want to continue exploring settlement options.

What is Arbitration?

An arbitration service is slightly different to conciliation, this is where a third party is brought into a dispute to help find a resolution. ACAS will work with both the employers and employees, and provide these two types of arbitration:

  • Individual arbitration, for example, could be a case regarding flexible working, or an unfair dismissal.
  • Collective arbitration, for example, will cover cases that involve an employer and a group of employees.

Employers need to know how arbitration services work.

employers and employees looking at paperwork with the trade union representative and trade unions.

How does the Arbitration service work?

ACAS's arbitration service is there to help make and maintain a better relationship between employers and employees.

Typically, the arbitrator is appointed by ACAS and each side must agree to the decision for the process to start. From here the arbitrator will put together the hearing, which will cover all the aspects of the dispute or events.

The hearing process is as follows:

  1. Confirm the dispute the decision needs to be made on.
  2. Allow all parties to explain their case and present any evidence.
  3. Discuss the case and answer questions related to the dispute.
  4. Each party is allowed to ask questions based on the evidence they have presented.

The results of the hearing are sent within 21 days for collective disputes and 14 days for individual disputes.

What is the ACAS code of practice?

The ACAS code of practice is a set of standards that are expected in the workplace by employers and employees.

The code includes the following:

  • Code of Practice on disclosure of information to trade unions for collective bargaining purposes
  • Code of practice on the settlement agreement.
  • Amend to Code of Practice on flexible working requests
  • Code of practice on time off for trade union duties and activities.
  • Code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

The ACAS code of practice should be used to run an organisation successfully and avoid employment tribunals. There is a statutory code of practice, if this is not followed by the employer, it can result in an increase of the award at tribunal.

 Workers talking through the grievance procedures and how to better employment relations

Get expert advice on ACAS from Croner

Croner has a team of award-winning HR consultants who are specialists in their field. We've been helping businesses for over 80 years and our advice line is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Why not speak to a Croner expert on 0800 124 4996.


About the Author

Amanda Beattie

Amanda represents corporate clients and large public bodies, including complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims. Amanda also drafts and delivers bespoke training regarding all aspects of employment law, including ‘mock tribunal’ events; in addition she also frequently drafts employment law articles for various publications for Croner and their clients.

Get expert views & insights delivered directly to your inbox