What is ACAS

ACAS stands for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. It is a publicly funded independent organisation that aims to promote better employment relations. As well as offering advice and training on a multitude of issues, ACAS provides an alternative to employment tribunals and aims to be confidential, fast, cost efficient and informal. ACAS is entirely voluntary and all proceedings are free and confidential.

Services offered by ACAS

There are three main ways of solving a dispute with ACAS. They are:

  •  Conciliation;

  •  Arbitration; and

  •  Mediation. 


The goal of conciliation is to help both sides reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

It will often involve:

  •  Establishing the issues being disputed;

  •  Giving both parties space so that they can calmly evaluate their position and the position of the other party;

  •  Meeting both parties in private to discuss matters;

  •  Getting both parties together to discuss matters; and

  •  Rebuilding the relationship between the parties.

Any settlements made through ACAS will be legally binding.


Arbitration differs from conciliation in that both parties agree beforehand to allow a third party to decide the result of a dispute and make an award if necessary.

Unlike tribunals and the court system, ACAS avoids formal pleadings, witnesses and documentary processes. Instead it tries to be more informal and flexible. There are no strict rules pertaining to evidence and, instead of relying on legal precedent and legalistic procedures, ACAS aims to take into account fairness and good conduct. Its decisions are final and it is very difficult to challenge the awards.

If a dispute involves complex legal issues it can still be accepted for determination by ACAS, but parties will be advised where appropriate to settle their dispute by other means or apply to the employment tribunal

ACAS’ role is to:

  •  Appoint arbitrators to determine the result of a case;

  •  Provide administrative help to participants; and

  •  Examine awards for errors that are referred back to the arbitrator.

To submit a dispute or arbitration to ACAS, parties must agree to take part. This agreement has to be in writing and will outline what it is that is being negotiated. The parties involved in the dispute determine the terms of reference or they can be drawn up with the aid of an ACAS conciliator.

At least 14 days prior to a hearing, both parties must submit any documentation to be relied on at the hearing and a lost of the people who will appear at a hearing. Participants must also submit statements outlining their case at least seven days before the hearing. Hearings will be arranged by ACAS on a date and at a location that is convenient for all involved.

Hearings are conducted in an informal manner and the parties can choose who they wish to represent them. Sometimes they may ask a lawyer for representation. The outcome of the hearing will be an award, which will be issued within three weeks of the hearing.

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For more information on:

  • Mediation