There has been an increase in employees looking to bring an early end to disputes so that tribunals can be avoided

A growing number of workers and employers are starting to look for ways to bring a swift end to workplace disputes and avoid employment tribunals, Acas has revealed.

The conciliation service said demand for its early dispute resolution service has grown by a third to almost 24,000 cases over the past 12 months.

Unfair dismissal was the most common problem handled by the service, with almost a million calls being received over the year for these and other issues, including redundancies and contract problems.

The group also revealed in its annual report that the number of cases which do not end up leading to employment tribunal hearings has increased by 4% to 78%.

The announcement comes after reports that the Government intends to introduce fees of up to 1,200 for staff who decide to take claims to an employment tribunal.

For workers disputing redundancy packages or unpaid wages, this will mean an initial fee of 160 followed by a charge of 230 if it goes to a hearing.

Meanwhile, for discrimination, unfair dismissal and equal pay complaints there could be an initial fee of 250, followed by a hearing charge of 950.

In support of the plans, ministers highlighted that taxpayers have to pay more than 84 million a year for tribunals, with no contributions from those making claims.

Under Government proposals, workers looking into making employment tribunal claims might also need to get in touch with Acas first from 2014.

Acas chairman Ed Sweeney said: "It's very good to see that more people are resolving disputes earlier by using our pre-claim conciliation service. Our new early conciliation service will mean that disputes will be referred to Acas before a tribunal claim can be lodged and I hope it will build on the success of pre-claim conciliation when it's introduced in 2014."

Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said: "It's not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire 84 million bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal.

"We want people, where they can, to pay a fair contribution for the system they are using, which will encourage them to look for alternatives."

Copyright Press Association 2012