Disputes between workers and their employers should be settled out of court, a Coventry solicitor will tell a high-profile conference.

Employment law and business affairs specialist Sandra Garlick is backing proposed government changes for all employees’ claims against employers to be referred to workplace relations expert Acas first in an attempt to reach an agreement.

If Acas cannot resolve the case, normally within one month, an employee could then take their claim to an employment tribunal.

The change is part of the Government’s new proposals to reduce the number of tribunals, including an extension of the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to two years and a proposal to introduce a fee to make a claim.

Ms Garlick, principal of Coventry and Warwickshire-based De Marco Solicitors, supports the Acas service in settling cases out of court, known as Pre-Claim Conciliation (PCC).

She said: “I am a great advocate of Pre-Claim Conciliation as I believe that wherever possible litigation should be a last resort.

“However, there are certain circumstances where it is wise for the parties to have legal representation to ensure that the wording of any agreement reached is correctly drafted to protect their interests.”

Malcolm Boswell, director of Acas in the West Midlands, said: “Pre-Claim Conciliation is simpler, quicker, cheaper and less stressful than going to tribunal.

"Taking a case to tribunal on average costs an employer £3,700 in staff time, admin and legal advice to defend the claim. But the average bill for an employer of dealing with a case through Pre-Claim Conciliation is £475, and there’s no cost in using Acas.

“It’s better for workers too with an average £1,300 spent on preparing and going to a tribunal, compared to £78 for Pre-Claim Conciliation. Acas’ PCC services are free for both employers and employees.

“Having seen the success of Pre-Claim Conciliation, which started as a pilot about three years ago, the Government has decided to expand the scheme from 2014 so business spends less time and money on disputes and more on trying to grow Britain’s ailing economy.”

Ms Garlick will join some of the country’s top workplace relations experts at the conference being held at the National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull, on Tuesday, March 13.

The high-profile speakers include TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, CBI director for public services and skills Susan Anderson, regional employment judge of the tribunals Fiona Monk and Acas’ chief conciliator Peter Harwood.

The conference is being hosted by Acas West Midlands to highlight changes in people management and the rights of groups and individuals at work.

To book a place telephone 08457 38 37 36.

De Marco Solicitors will be holding its first monthly business clinic on Thursday, March 8, when companies can book a free 30-minute consultation for advice on employment issues. For more information, phone 024 7621 4440.