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Collective disputes

What does Acas do in a workplace dispute?

Watch as our Chief Conciliator explains what Acas actually does in a workplace dispute.


Collective conciliation

When there is a dispute between an employer and a group of employees (usually represented), Acas can help. We act as an independent impartial third party to help parties discuss, consider and reflect on their respective positions with a view to reaching an agreement.

The service is voluntary and confidential, and is delivered by experienced Acas staff. It is very flexible and the main objective of the conciliator is to try to achieve an agreement which the parties feel they can accept.

When is collective conciliation used?

Collective conciliation is used when an employer and its employees, usually represented by a trade union, are in dispute over an issue and cannot reach a solution. Many cases benefit from an impartial third party listening to the facts, suggesting where there are strengths and weaknesses in each argument, and helping them find common ground to reach an agreement. Either party can contact us independently to discuss the issue confidentially without any obligation to take matters further. 

Acas conciliation is most commonly used in disputes over pay, terms and conditions, resourcing levels or long-term business restructuring.

But it is always best to contact Acas before positions in a dispute become entrenched, or the working relationship starts to break down, as we may be able to help parties identify and agree on a solution.

Collective arbitration

Collective arbitration takes place when parties (an employer and its employees, usually represented by a trade union) have exhausted their negotiating procedures on a particular dispute and are unable to agree a settlement.

Acas can help the two parties to agree terms of reference for the arbitration and what it is they want a decision on; and will explain the process. Parties will also agree to accept the arbitrator's decision.

Acas will appoint an impartial, independent person from its panel of Arbitrators to hear the parties' arguments. Once the hearing is concluded, the Arbitrator will issue a decision, usually called an 'award', within 21 days of the hearing date.

The process is at its most effective when the issues in dispute are quite clear cut. For example, in disputes over pay, grading and disciplinary matters.

Collective mediation

Collective mediation is available to help an organisation and its employees (usually represented by a trade union) to resolve a particular dispute where they are unable to agree a settlement between them. Acas provides an impartial and independent third party to help parties to find a solution.

Before mediation begins, the parties agree terms of reference, including that they will seriously consider Acas recommendations.

Mediation is a completely voluntary and confidential, where the mediator talks to both parties to uncover underlying problems, assists them to understand the issues and helps them to clarify the options for resolving the dispute.

Many kinds of dispute can be mediated if those involved want to find a way forward. It can be used at any stage in a dispute but is most effective before positions become entrenched.

What is the difference between Acas Collective Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration?

Watch our simple explanation of the difference between the three.


How do I contact Acas to find out more?

Contact our Customer Services Team on 0300 123 1150 or complete our Customer contact form and one of our team will contact you within 24 hours.

Many organisations find it helpful to write engagement with Acas into their internal processes, which speeds up how soon we can get involved and offer free support.

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