The number of Midlands firms looking for conciliation as an alternative to employment tribunals is on the rise.

According to employment relations service Acas, calls to its helpline from Birmingham have more than doubled since September last year.

By the end of February, 1,053 PCC referrals had been made by Birmingham businesses from the Acas helpline since the service was launched to accompany changes to the Employment Act in April last year - potentially avoiding up to 5,000 tribunals.

Rising demand for the service has resulted in a steady increase in referrals culminating in over 350 from Birmingham businesses in the last quarter of 2009. The first quarter of 2010 is on track to exceed this figure by 20 per cent. Currently, around 30 referrals are being received every week on average, and Acas expects this number to rise to approximately 40 during 2010.

David Wait, conciliation and mediation services manager, said: “This data indicates that workers and employers across Birmingham are increasingly taking steps to avoid employment tribunals. The current economic climate has created difficult workplace challenges for managers, HR professionals and employees. The earlier issues can be resolved, the more likely people will remain in productive employment in the workplace.

“The service is quick. Over half of all resolved cases are completed in around three weeks instead of the six to nine months that most tribunal claims take. We have a responsibility to support the economic recovery by resolving workplace disputes early on to avoid costly, stressful and time consuming employment tribunals.”