What is arbitration?


Arbitration might be a term you have not heard before. Essentially, in your role as a teacher, it is one of the ways to resolve employment disputes without having to escalate to employment tribunal. In this article, we explain what arbitration is, how you might practically experience it and link to further information.

What is arbitration?

The ACAS website explains when there’s a disagreement (‘dispute’) between an employer and an employee, (your school and yourself) a third party can make a decision on the dispute to settle it. This is called ‘arbitration.’

It’s better if both sides of the dispute, or their representatives, can resolve the dispute between themselves first. Both sides should try and work something out together. If you are an Edapt subscriber we will be able to support you through this process.

The Citizens Advice website explains that you will be called the claimant and the party you’re taking action against is the respondent. You both put your case to an independent person called an arbitrator. The arbitrator listens to both sides, looks at the evidence you’ve sent in and decides what the outcome should be. In some cases, the arbitrator may choose to have several meetings with you both.

When the arbitrator makes a decision, this is called an award and it’s legally binding. If you don’t agree with the decision, you can’t take your case to court to get the decision changed.

Using ACAS individual arbitration

You can use ACAS individual arbitration to settle certain disputes between an employer and an employee. We have written another article explaining the services of ACAS here.

You can only use ACAS individual arbitration for cases of alleged unfair dismissal and claims under the flexible working legislation.

Arbitration is delivered by a neutral person (an ‘arbitrator’). The arbitrator is impartial. This means they do not take sides. The arbitrator considers the arguments from both sides of the dispute and makes a decision based on the evidence presented.  

The benefits of using individual arbitration instead of going to an employment tribunal are that it’s:

  • free
  • voluntary
  • informal
  • confidential
  • legally binding 

You can get the same types of outcomes as those in an employment tribunal. We’ve written another article which provides an overview of employment tribunals here.

Preparing for the arbitration hearing

Both sides should send ACAS written statements of their case and other supporting documents so the arbitrator can look at all the evidence before the hearing.

At the hearing, the arbitrator will:

  • ask both sides to explain their case – each side is allowed to talk without interruption
  • ask questions to make sure both side understand all the issues
  • discuss the case with both sides
  • ask both sides to sum up the main points for them to consider

Hearings normally last for half a day.

After the hearing, the arbitrator will make a decision in writing. This is called an ‘award’ and it’s legally binding. Once a decision is made, neither side can go to court to get the decision changed at a later date. The award is given to both parties within 2 weeks of the hearing.

ACAS has published guidance on using arbitration to resolve disputes about unfair dismissals as well as resolving disputes about flexible working.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.