Acas, the UK employment relations service, published a policy discussion paper today which looks at the impact that dispute resolution reforms of October 2004 are having on employment tribunal claims.

The paper suggests that the best way of reducing the number of employment tribunal cases is by focusing on improving employment relations solutions in the workplace. It argues that more resources should be targeted on dispute prevention in the workplace, including mediation services.

"Acas helps to settle three quarters of individual workplace disputes before they go down the much more costly and stressful route of a full tribunal hearing," said Chief Executive John Taylor. "Prevention is much better than cure in building good employee relations."

He welcomed the DTI's forthcoming review of the 2004 reforms to see if they are having the desired effect. The number of tribunal claims initially dropped following the introduction of the reforms – but Taylor warned that it is too early to say whether this trend will continue.

The paper questions whether the reforms are encouraging a genuine attempt by employers and employees to resolve disputes in the workplace – or whether the new discipline and grievance procedures mean that disputes are being formalised at too early a stage.

Britain's employment tribunal system may offer a preferable alternative to the more legalistic approaches in some other European countries, but there is still room for improvement, says Acas.