Lessons from ACAS – What makes people so receptive to change?

From April 2014, changes were brought to the Employment Tribunal process which required anyone wishing to bring a claim to the Tribunal to firstly notify the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), with a view to seeing if their free ACAS led early conciliation would negate the need to pursue the case further. Following this, ACAS will aim to resolve the matter, therefore relieving the courts and saving them time. Alternatively, the claimant can refuse this conciliation service and the case will progress to court, where they will be required to pay a total of up to £1,200, just to have their case heard.

ACAS has now published the results of their first year of early conciliation.

Overall, the findings of the report show that this new procedure has been successful, in that people have started to come to terms with this change, and are embracing it. By the end of March 2015, 90% of employees and 89% of employers used the early conciliation service. How can such a rapid and effective change be achieved in any business?

This can be answered by considering the following 2 points:


It is always important to demonstrate through words and actions that your particular organisation is trustworthy, provides a great service, and that it also cares about their customers/clients in its ‘business as usual’ activities.

When there is change however, the need to provide this trustworthy service is particularly important, as it should be the one thing that is consistent when people are feeling lost, distraught and angry. From the ACAS report as an example, 83% of those that went through early conciliation stated that they were satisfied with ACAS’ actual service. As a result, recommendations to friends and colleagues could have helped to alleviate any concerns that they may have had with going through this new process.

How does it benefit me?

It is vitally important for leaders to explain and where possible, demonstrate how the pending change will benefit the recipients of the change. And what better way to illustrate this than by informing them that it keeps their money in their pockets?As mentioned earlier, ACAS’ early conciliation procedure is free. Going to a Tribunal on the other hand, requires you to pay, among other fees, an issue and a hearing fee- as mentioned previously. Therefore, the risk that is posed with going straight to a Tribunal is that if you lose your case, your money is also wasted. ACAS allows you not to lose anything- as a minimum.

It also means that your case is resolved very quickly- so there is less stress, less emotional turmoil, and it enables one to swiftly get on with their life – all enviable requirements of any change process. Put simply, it’s a no brainer! Indeed, a survey taken in the report shows that the most popular reason for not starting an Employment Tribunal claim (before ACAS’ conciliation rule) was the cost of the tribunal fee i.e. due to the fear of losing money.

In a nutshell, service and money are two important factors in increasing the adoption of change. However, they are not the only ones. Simplicity of the change process is an example of a third. People do not want things that are too complicated, and in the case of the conciliation process, all you have to do is complete the early conciliation form, and then expect a call within 2 working days.ACAS has even got a simple one page flowchart explaining how it works.

These are some key lessons learnt from ACAS – which we can all benefit from when designing our own change projects.

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