Free Conciliation Service Saves Small Businesses £5k in Legal Costs, says Acas
Small businesses are saving an average of £5,000 by using Acas’ free conciliation service to resolve workplace disputes, the employment advisory service has claimed.
An Acas survey of more than 1,000 small firms using the Pre-Claim Conciliation (PCC) service between April and December 2009 found that users saved an average of £5,200, compared to the cost of resolving a dispute if an employment tribunal claim is made.
The figure includes the cost of legal advice and representation, as well as staff time, but does not include the cost of settlements or tribunal awards.
Firms can use the PCC service to tackle grievances, dismissals and disciplinary issues to prevent them from going to employment tribunal. While mediation helps resolve more general employment problems, conciliation is used when there is a potential claim to be made.
Acas chair, Ed Sweeney, said that small businesses without in-house professional HR support benefit the most.
“These businesses are particularly vulnerable and often don’t know what to do when things go wrong. This may be because there are more avenues for raising a dispute in larger organisations, or simply the way personal and business relationships tend to be more informal in smaller organisations.”
BP Collins employment law solicitor, Nicola Nicolaou, said that many SMEs are attracted to Acas’ PCC because it is a trusted organisation and the service is free.
“The alternative to this service is to use a private mediator to help resolve workplace problems, but this has a cost.”
However, she added that conciliation is not always the best route for a small business to take.
“While some small firms want to resolve issues out of court, either by going through conciliation or by arranging an early settlement, others want to fight them so that they aren’t seen as a pushover by other employees — it completely depends on the case.”
“The research doesn’t take into account tribunal awards or settlements, which can both be costly. If we were advising a firm we would look at the individual situation and assess whether it is likely to be worth the cost.”
For more information, read about Acas’ free Pre-Claim Conciliation (PCC) service.