The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) is a Crown non-departmental public body
Non-departmental public body
In the United Kingdom, a non-departmental public body —often referred to as a quango—is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to certain types of public bodies...

 of the Government of the United Kingdom. Its purpose is to improve organisations and working life through the promotion and facilitation of strong industrial relations practice. It may do this through a number of mediums such as arbitration
Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution , is a legal technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts, where the parties to a dispute refer it to one or more persons , by whose decision they agree to be bound...

 or mediation
Mediation, as used in law, is a form of alternative dispute resolution , a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties. A third party, the mediator, assists the parties to negotiate their own settlement...

, although the service is perhaps best known for its collective conciliation
Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution process whereby the parties to a dispute agree to utilize the services of a conciliator, who then meets with the parties separately in an attempt to resolve their differences...

 function - that is resolving disputes between groups of employees or workers, often represented by a trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

, and their employers. Acas is an independent and impartial organisation that does not side with a particular party, but rather will help the parties to reach suitable resolutions in a dispute.

Today, the employment world has mostly moved away from large-scale industrial disputes that characterised the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, when Acas became a household name. Accordingly, Acas' emphasis has shifted towards helping businesses to prevent problems before they arise, by means of, for example, its telephone helpline and training sessions. Furthermore much of Acas conciliation work is now focused on individual complaints to an Employment Tribunal
Employment tribunal
Employment Tribunals are tribunal non-departmental public bodies in England and Wales and Scotland which have statutory jurisdiction to hear many kinds of disputes between employers and employees. The most common disputes are concerned with unfair dismissal, redundancy payments and employment...

 (i.e. where individuals claim their employer has denied them a legal right).


The service's roots lie in 1896 when the government launched a voluntary conciliation and arbitration service, which also gave free advice to employers and unions on industrial relations and personnel problems. There was a name change in 1960, to Industrial Relations Services, and again in 1972 to Conciliation and Advisory Service. Up to this point in its history the service remained firmly under the Government's wing. In 1974, the service was renamed the Conciliation and Arbitration Service and separated from government control, with an independent Council to direct it. 'Advisory' was added to its name in 1975 to reflect its full range of services, then finally in 1976 Acas was made a statutory body by the Employment Protection Act 1975.

In 2010, there was speculation that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government
Cameron Ministry
David Cameron is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government after the resignation as Prime Minister of Gordon Brown on 11 May 2010. Leading a coalition government formed by the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, the coalition...

's plans to reduce the number of Quango
Quango or qango is an acronym used notably in the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere to label an organisation to which government has devolved power...

s might threaten Acas, but the organisation survived the cuts.


Although largely funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is a ministerial department of the United Kingdom Government created on 5 June 2009 by the merger of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform .-Ministers:The BIS...

, Acas is a non-departmental body, governed by an independent Council which is responsible for determining Acas' strategic direction, policies and priorities, and ensuring its statutory duties are carried out effectively. This allows the service to be independent, impartial and confidential. The Council consists of the Chair and eleven employer, trade union and independent members, appointed by the Secretary of State for Business Innovation & Skills. Acas' current chair, as of November 2010, is Ed Sweeney, formerly the Deputy General Secretary of Amicus
Amicus was the United Kingdom's second-largest trade union, and the largest private sector union, formed by the merger of Manufacturing Science and Finance, the AEEU agreed in 2001, and two smaller unions, UNIFI and the GPMU...


Acas' day-to-day operations are managed by its Chief Executive, John Taylor, and a management board that includes its national and regional directors. Acas has around 800 staff, based in its London head office and 11 main regional centres across England, Scotland and Wales. Acas's chief conciliator is Peter Harwood.

List of Chairs

1974: Jim Mortimer
Jim Mortimer (politician)
James "Jim" E. Mortimer is a British politician.Mortimer's early career was in the shipbuilding and engineering industries where he worked as a ship fitter apprentice, a machinist and a planning engineer...

1981: Pat Lowry
1987: Douglas Smith
1993: John Hougham
2000: Rita Donaghy
Rita Donaghy
Rita Margaret Donaghy, Baroness Donaghy CBE, FRSA is a British university administrator, trade unionist and Labour life peer in the House of Lords....

2007: Ed Sweeney

External links

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