Acas and effective workplaces
An Acas case study

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Page 1: Introduction

As markets become increasingly competitive it is essential that employers and employees have a good working relationship and are pulling in the same direction. The employment
relationship can have a major effect on productivity and the success of a business.

Staff relationsAcas 12 Three People At Table.JPG

Increasingly, all types of organisations refer to how they aim to treat staff, in descriptions of their overall ambitions or within their mission statements. This helps them communicate respect for staff, to people inside the organisation as well as to customers and potential employees. A reputation locally as a fair employer is very important in attracting and retaining good employees.


Recognising that an independent, impartial third party can help the relationship between employers and employees, the government set up Acas in 1974 in the aftermath of a period
of troubled labour relations. Over the last 30 years Acas has built up an unparalleled reputation as an 'honest broker' and expert adviser. Acas' ambition is to 'improve organisations and working life through better employment relations'.

Role of the organisation

The organisation's role is described by its full name Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (now rarely used). This also describes its statutory duties.

  • Advisory - it advises on good practice in developing effective workplaces. Acas advisers help thousands of employers each year to improve communications and establish workplace practices that will help avoid conflict, and reduce the risk of a breakdown in working relationships.
  • Conciliation - it finds common ground between employers and employees, helping each side to see the other's point of view so they can solve a problem or resolve a dispute.
  • Arbitration - independent arbitrators listen to both sides and put forward a solution that they will both either adopt (binding) or consider (non-binding) in a dispute.
  • Service - the organisation works together with all parties, from a neutral position and seeks to provide the highest level of service itself. Mediation is often the general term used to describe processes like conciliation and arbitration. It is a way of

A trusted employer

Many people associate Acas with large industrial disputes, but as this case study shows, its role is much broader. Due to its independence and impartiality, Acas is trusted by both
employers and employees in workplaces. It is directed by a Council whose members reflect the views of employers, employees and independent interests. Acas is able to use that trust to work with organisations to improve employment relations and, if there is a breakdown in the employment relationship, to seek ways of resolving it at an early stage.

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