In the UK, government-funded independent body for the improvement of industrial relations through its advisory, conciliation, and arbitration services. Set up in 1974 as the Conciliation and Arbitration Service, it adopted its current name in 1975, and became a statutory body in January 1976 under the Employment Protection Act (1975). Specifically, ACAS aims to encourage the extension of collective bargaining and, wherever possible, the reform of collective-bargaining machinery.
ACAS provides advice about employment law and encourages employers and unions to adopt best practice in this field. Most of its work is advisory but occasionally it becomes involved as a conciliator or arbitrator in an important national dispute.
Its 12-member council, including its chair and executive officer, is appointed by the secretary of state for trade and industry. Members are drawn from trade union, employer, and independent sectors.
Operating with trained and experienced staff, it provides a wide range of services including: conciliation, at the request of either or both parties to a dispute; arbitration, mediation, and investigation into trade disputes, at the request of either party, but only with the agreement of both; advice on industrial relations; undertaking inquiries, on request, with the aim of improving industrial relations; and assisting employers and unions in dealing with the effects of industrial change, such as unemployment and economic recession.
ACAS evolved from a voluntary conciliation, arbitration, and advisory service for trade unions and employers, set up by the UK government in 1896. The service remained under government control (as the Industrial Relations Service from 1960 and the Conciliation and Advisory Service from 1972) until 1974, when the modern organization was established as an independent body.
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