In light of the often competing interests of employers and employees, the employment relationship inevitably results in tension and sometimes in disputes between employers and employees which can result in Employment Tribunal proceedings.

As an alternative to Tribunal proceedings, parties can seek the help of ACAS conciliators in order to settle any dispute. The purpose of the ACAS officer is to help parties reach agreement on an impartial basis. ACAS conciliators can also become involved following claim and response forms being lodged with the Employment Tribunals Office.

The annual report to 31 March 2010 published by ACAS this week indicate that the number of claims resulting in ACAS conciliation has risen 13% to 87,421.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in light of the economic conditions within which employers are operating, the number of claims for unfair dismissal making use of the conciliation process rose dramatically by almost 10,000 to 64,878.

Whilst referrals to ACAS are up for individual claimants, the numbers for collective disputes have fallen by 6%.

Last year ACAS also set up a new pre-claim conciliation service and the report indicates that initial uptake was good with the most common claims involved focussing on unfair dismissal, deduction of wages and breach of contract. However, the figures perhaps suggest this process is more attractive to employees - of the 10,000 claims involved as many as two thirds failed to reach some form of settlement as a result of employers’ unwillingness to engage in the process.

The report can be accessed here.