Thursday, 25 March 2010

Chamber of Commerce Wants ACAS to Vet ET1s

The British Chambers of Commerce, with the help of employment lawyers at Brabners Chaffe Street, have produced a report entitled "Employment Regulation: up to the job? with the aim of improving the process of going to an employment tribunal.

The main purpose of the report is to present "a number of ways that employment legislation and the Tribunal system can be rebalanced, resulting in reduced costs, less bureaucracy and improving the competitiveness of the UK economy".

Out of the lengthy report one of the proposals would be that:

Any claimant who has not received professional advice would be obliged to go through their ET1 form with Acas before submitting their claim. The idea is that this would prevent claims with no real chance of success getting into the tribunal system at all, thus saving time and money for both the employer and the Tribunal service.

This ill conceived plan in my view relies heavily on untrained lawyers to give legal advice. We all know that trained lawyers come with varying degrees of competency but to expect ACAS mediators to know the law and take responsibility for what is in essence, legal advice seems like an onerous burden to lay at their feet.

The report also suggests an enforced mediation with ACAS in some cases with the penalty of a longer wait before being heard at tribunal for those uninterested. This fast track ACAS conciliation system would be applicable for employees claiming less than £3,000.

Again, this enforced mediation forgets that the process of employment litigation already has the ACAS grievance and dismissal/disciplinary procedures in place which holds the threat of financial penalties for those not adhering to mediation rules.

Stangely, the report also states that employers should not have the same health and safety responsibilities towards remote workers and lone workers as they do towards office based staff. If this latter proposal alone were to be introduced it would have to overturn entrenched principles found in law and would certainly require legislation in order to introduce it soundly.


Fiona said...

Totally agree. This is complete bunkum! Acas employs conciliators not lawyers. Its staff are already hugely overstretched trying to conciliate. Who is going to pay for the additional legally qualified personnel? Who is going to pay for the mediation process?

LJ said...

I personally think that where possible, mediation should be used. York mediation company Cedar GB are a comapny we recently used and it was really helpful - so I'd fully recommend it - where possible.