I’m Jeremy King and I’ve been with Acas for eighteen years, all of which have been spent working in and around our telephone helpline. I started as a helpline adviser on the phones, became a tutor, then manager, and moved in 2015 into a policy role – liaising with stakeholders, monitoring overall performance, and being the link between local managers and other parts of the organisation.
Acas is probably best known for brokering agreements in large-scale industrial disputes. While this still forms an important part of our work, our focus is on helping people and businesses with the day-to-day HR issues common to most businesses.
We are open from 8pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday and our number is 0300 123 1100. Our advice is free and confidential, and in 2020-21 we took over 700,000 calls from those who wanted our advice. The employers who ring us tend to be small businesses without a HR department - though we also receive calls from HR professionals in larger organisations clarifying specific areas of law.
When people come through to us they will get clear and impartial advice. We explain the relevant law and good practice. Where there are options we will explain these too, highlighting the benefits and risks. What we don’t do is tell employers what to do. All decisions are made by our callers.
The biggest topic of calls (around a third) is discipline, dismissal and grievance. Employers know that if they get the discipline and grievance (D&G) procedures wrong, they could end up losing at Employment Tribunal, which could mean reputation loss, damages awarded and untold stress. But sometimes employers don’t contact us until it’s too late and are already at the point of dismissal.
Our advisers can also help on the topic of Payment of the National Living Wage, or National Minimum Wage (NMW). Many employers are confident the NMW is being paid correctly, but many factors may actually take pay under the NMW rate.
With almost every case, I can say, we can help you more if you contact us early. We explain the correct procedures to follow, which, if used, will assist you should the issue end up in the tribunal.
Acas Services to Access
Our most accessible source of advice is our website, with just under 19 million visits in 2020-21. This is constantly updated and maintained to reflect changes in employment law and good practice. To give a flavour, it covers guidance on changing rules during the pandemic, statutory guidance on D&G, and templates on settlement agreements.
You can also get more in-depth support from our range of free webinars, podcasts, and e-learning. In 2020-21, 49,000 people joined an Acas webinar, and a further 39,000 followed an e-learning session (Acas Learning Online). Webinar subjects include how to manage a fair disciplinary process (Acas Webinars).
Where customers need a greater level of support or advice, we provide training services – you can find out more here. These range from focused in-depth training for HR professionals and SMEs to tailored bespoke in-house training. We can help with advice about difficult conversations and line management skills – which are often the easiest way to nip a future problem in the bud.
If you have major issues going on in your workplace, such as a restructure or you want to tackle the outcome of an employee feedback survey for example, and you need someone to talk to in-depth, then our network of senior advisers can help. These are experienced people who you can talk to in confidence and who can guide you through the steps you need to take. We have a form on our website where you can request a senior adviser to contact you.
- 24 February – ‘Managing Discipline and Grievance’ Digital Event. This course takes into account the rise of remote working. For further dates for this event please see Acas - Training - EventsList.
- 7 April – ‘Managing Absence at Work’ Digital Event. This course discusses attendance policies, and what they should contain.
It’s good to hear positive feedback and to share a little of this:
Nick Pahl, CEO of the Society of Occupational Medicine:
“ACAS is an excellent source of free, independent, and impartial advice on workplace issues. Resources and support offer up-to-date information from the menopause to bullying and harassment. I have called the Acas helpline and found their service invaluable. It’s good to see you can also speak to an Acas adviser on Facebook. Recommended for all employers and small businesses!”
Acas Helpline Advisers:
“I just had a caller come through to discuss TUPE and Redundancy. He said at the end of the call that he was hesitant to call us because he felt that he may not be able to get a straight answer. But, after going through his options with him as an employer, stating what is best practice, he said "thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate Acas being here for all of us at this time. The advice you've given me came across as really straightforward and easy to understand so I appreciate the time you've taken to speak to me today”.
Feedback on Acas Training:
“I attended a two-day course online, it was well organised, and very well presented, both with the visual information and the depth of knowledge of the course tutor. The follow-up email contained a wealth of information in the form of templates, links to a wide range of sites, and the whole course slideshow. Very informative. Enjoyed and learnt on both days of attendance. Thank you.”
Thanks to the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter for giving me the opportunity to write this blog about the role of Acas and its services, and I hope you’ll take advantage of our resources and expertise.
Acas is an independent, publicly funded organisation that provides up-to-date information, independent advice, high quality training, and works with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance.
As a Partner of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, our employers are encouraged to access Acas' wide range of resources, events and services.