ACAS turns to cloud as workloads surge during Covid lockdown

ACAS, the conciliation and arbitration service has seen the number of calls from people with employment concerns double from 3,000 a day before the first UK-wide lockdown in March 2020 to more than 6,000.

Many companies have also used the Government’s furlough scheme to continue to employ staff on a part-time basis – at the initiative’s peak in May 2020, 8.9 million people across the UK were furloughed. ACAS offers advice and help to employees and employers on these topics.

ACAS staff can provide the latest information to callers by securely logging on to systems while working from home. Those systems, which are managed centrally, can be updated remotely by the IT team to ensure that the organisation’s services can continue to operate as normal.

“We’ve seen a huge rise in the number of people needing advice and help. Every time there was a new announcement from the Government, we would update the information on our website and see a wave of calls. We needed robust systems to cope with that demand,” said Paul Dowse, Head of Projects and Analysis at ACAS.

“Moving to Azure has definitely saved us valuable time in making changes to our environment and money, we have cut costs by around 50% compared to our previous data centre costs. We are now also using Teams to help resolve some employment disputes in place of face-to-face meetings, which has enabled us to maintain our service during the pandemic and is reducing costs for everyone,” he added.

ACAS had switched from on-premise data centres to Microsoft Azure in 2019, which proved to be a crucial decision as the organisation was on the frontline of helping people cope with employment issues as the pandemic swept across the UK.

“No one thought the implications of Covid were going to be as dramatic and long lasting as they have been, so if you’re thinking about moving to the cloud, do it now, because you never know what’s going to happen in the future,” Dowse added.

Making infrastructure changes in the cloud has meant that Dowse's team can spend more time focusing on other IT projects that can help ACAS provide an even better service for the people who need us, he explained.

“Everyone at ACAS has risen to the challenge over the past year,” he said. “We have always been a trusted and friendly voice for anyone seeking employment advice, and our staff were committed to continuing to provide that service despite the lockdowns.

“It’s been a huge help – and a relief – that we haven’t had to worry about the IT side of our service, because we were very quickly able to get everyone up running effectively from home. We’ve been able to focus on helping people, which is what we want to do.”

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