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The Industrial Society attacks proposals for 'partial privatisation' of ACAS

8 October 2001 - The consultation document Routes to Resolution: improving dispute resolution in Britain has provoked an angry response about the 'partial privatisation' of ACAS from the Industrial Society. The Industrial Society is also concerned that new Government suggestions for dealing with workplace disputes do not 'sufficiently tackle the inadequacy of British management in dealing with people.'

The Society is against asking ACAS to licence private conciliators. This could result in less experienced conciliators and might damage ACAS by encouraging staff to leave for higher salaries in the private sector. Instead, the Industrial Society recommends an increase in ACAS's resources.

It writes: "The proposals do not get to the heart of the inadequacy in British management in dealing with people. The best means of ensuring management improves its performance is to promote awareness of the cost benefits of good management and to provide guidance on good practice, especially among small employers. The Society calls for ACAS resources to be increased so that more of its high quality, basic good practice advice can be provided especially for smaller firms that often do not have expert employment relations advice to hand.

Yvonne Bennion, policy specialist at the Industrial Society said: "The Government has clearly been persuaded that the number of claims and applications to employment tribunals is too great. The hotchpotch of suggestions contained in the consultation document do not provide a coherent answer to current dissatisfactions with present methods of handling individual disputes in the work place."

According to the Industrial Society, the review of dispute resolution sits alongside the review of all tribunals by Sir Andrew Leggatt. The Society is not impressed with the idea expressed in the Leggatt Report that employment tribunals might become the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor's Department. The Society argues that this otion should be resisted since it would weaken the connection with practical employment relations which is currently the responsibility of DTI and through DTI to ACAS, the CAC and the Certification Officer.'

The Industrial Society argues that 'tinkering with the operation of employment tribunals is not likely to bring significant benefits to the number of cases put into the system.' On the other hand the ethos of the tribunal could benefit from:

* Putting a requirement on it to pursue at all stages the prospect of a voluntary settlement of the issue;

* Enabling Chairmen to conduct proceedings in a more business-like fashion without falling foul of the Human Rights Act; and

* Seeking greater consistency of operation by Chairmen.

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