If you’re having an issue at work, or if you’re questioning something your employer has done, then it can be difficult to know where to turn. If you’re a member or a trade union, then that’s the obvious place, but if you’re not, did you know that there was a public body that could help? ACAS will help you to understand your employment rights, for free.
What is ACAS?
ACAS, or to give it its full name; the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, works with you to improve your relationship with your employer. It is an independent public body that receives government funding.
ACAS is there if an individual (or a company) needs help. They provide free, impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives. They can advise on issues including employment rights, best practice, policies and resolving workplace conflict.
How can they help me?
If you’re facing an issue at work, or you’re unsure about something your employer has told you, then it makes sense to double check it with ACAS. It can sometimes be hard to question your HR department, as what they say is often taken as gospel. But if you think something is incorrect, you owe it to yourself to get it clarified. Checking that information with ACAS isn’t about you being difficult, or questioning your HR department’s competence, it’s about ensuring that you’re being treated fairly and in accordance with the law. You should also keep in mind that people do make mistakes and that includes HR professionals. Employment law is a very complex area and things change frequently, so it is possible that somebody within your organisation has misadvised you through genuine human error.
You can also use ACAS if you’re going through a redundancy consultation or a dismissal hearing. They provide information on best practice and procedure.
How much does it cost?
ACAS offers a free service. This includes online advice, a helpline and an online database. They offer some paid-for services as well, including mediation.
Knowing your rights
ACAS will help you to determine what your employment status is, before showing you what your rights are. Your employment status could be that of an employee, a worker, or self employed and the advice given does vary depending on your status. Even if you think you know what your status is, it still makes sense to double check before reading the advice.
If you’re facing redundancy and you’d like to know what the correct procedure should look like, then ACAS can help. The website guides you through the procedure, but if you need additional help, or you have a specific question, then you can speak to an advisor on the phone.
ACAS can’t stop your employer from making you redundant and they won’t provide you with a representative to join your consultation. But they can advise you about the law, so you can ensure that you’re being treated fairly. If you are subsequently made redundant, then my guide to coping with redundancy should help.
You will also want to know your rights if you’re facing an employment tribunal. Again, ACAS can help with this by advising you on where you stand legally.
The advantage of ACAS
ACAS is a service which is meant to aid the relationship between the employer and employee and it doesn’t favour either side. This can be helpful when you’re trying to negotiate something, such as a redundancy package. You can say that you’ve received advice from ACAS and then your employer is free to contact ACAS themselves, to seek advice from an employer’s perspective.
Is it worth it?
ACAS offers a service that’s free and it’s a handy place to turn if you find yourself questioning your employment rights. ACAS will advise you on the law and you can use that information to ensure you’re getting a fair deal from your employer.
Sometimes things get messy in work (as they do in life), so it’s important to stand up for yourself and to know your rights. We need to use the tools we have in order to advocate for ourselves and ACAS is a resource that everybody can and should access.