Record number of employees claim employment rights

The annual report of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) for 1996, published in June 1997, shows that for the first time ACAS had to deal with over 100,000 individual employment rights cases in a single year.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service published its 1996 annual report on 18 June 1997. Of the over 100,000 individual employment rights cases ACAS dealt with, nearly half of the employees involved were claiming unfair dismissal, but other categories are as follows:

  • protection of wages - 22,000;
  • breach of employment contract - 18,000; and
  • discrimination - 10,000.

The biggest increases in claims occurred in the London and south-east region, which accounted for 34,000 cases, compared with 26,000 in 1995.

According to ACAS, 1996 was the ninth consecutive year that the figures have increased, reflecting partly the significance that the law continues to exert on the world of work, and partly people's growing awareness of rights and willingness to use them. The increase may also reflect the fact that industrial relations have been worsening in the competitive environment of the last decade or so. ACAS says that it "has become increasingly aware of the extent to which these claims can affect small employers". Such companies are usually unaware of procedures and ACAS is thus attempting to increase their awareness and spread good practice to all companies.

Despite the high total number of cases brought, only 30% actually proceed as far as the industrial tribunal s. The rest are either settled through conciliation with ACAS, or are withdrawn.

In terms of collective conciliation ,1,306 requests were made, which was down on the previous year, and ACAS say that in 90% of the cases industrial action in any shape or form was avoided (despite the increase in industrial action in 1996 - UK9707144F). Just under half of the collective disputes were about pay and conditions of employment, while redundancy accounted for 13% and dismissal and discipline accounted for 12%.

ACAS states that one of the most important parts of its work is attempting to stop disputes before they happen in the first place. It now provides a wide range of services ranging from advisory booklets to workshops, conferences and joint problem solving mediation. ACAS announced in July 1997, however, that it would not want to take on the legal responsibility of administering any forthcoming regulations introduced by the Government on trade union recognition in the workplace (UK9704125F).

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