Acas Early Conciliation Procedures For Claimants
The latest development in Employment Tribunal procedures came into effect on 6 April 2014.
This is the introduction of a new duty on the parties, and Acas, to explore the option of Early Conciliation (EC) in employment disputes before a claim is issued.
There is a transitional period from 6 April and 5 May 2014 where the service will be voluntary, after which it is mandatory to contact Acas when a workplace dispute arises before a claim can be issued.
The Acas Early Conciliation procedure can be broken down into the following steps:
A prospective claimant who wants to institute relevant proceedings must provide “prescribed information” in the “prescribed manner” to Acas. This may be done using an Early Conciliation form or by telephoning Acas on 0300 123 1100.
An early conciliation support officer (ECSO) will make initial contact with the prospective claimant. The ECSO will explain the Early Conciliation process, take some details from the prospective claimant and check that they wish to proceed with conciliation. As long as they do, the prospective claimant’s information will be sent to a Conciliation Officer (CO).
The CO will contact the prospective claimant. In addition to discussing their complaint, the CO will check that the prospective claimant agrees to the CO contacting the prospective respondent. As long as the CO is able to contact the prospective respondent and the prospective respondent is willing to participate in Early Conciliation, the CO must try to promote a settlement between the parties within the “prescribed period” (EC period). The EC period is one calendar month from the date on which the prospective claimant made initial contact with Acas. It may be extended once, by up to 14 days.
If it is not possible to contact the parties or if they do not wish to participate in Early Conciliation, an Early Conciliation certificate must be issued. If a settlement is not reached, either because the CO considers that settlement is not possible, or because the prescribed period expires, an EC certificate must be issued. The EC certificate will give the prospective claimant a unique reference number which they will have to include on their claim form should they go on to present a claim.
Not all claims are covered by the EC process, but the exceptions are very limited. Employees will not be able to lodge a claim unless they have either been issued with an EC certificate from ACAS, or one of the very limited exemptions applies.
The usual Employment Tribunal deadlines are extended to accommodate the EC process, however the period of extension depends when the original deadline would have been and when the EC process starts and ends. This varying extension period is bound to catch out some claimants, and probably representatives too.
Following the introduction of fees, any development that encourages settlements without claimants having to fork out hundreds of pounds is to be lauded. We hope that it does increase agreements and that the complications involved do not prove to be another unhelpful, awkward hoop to be jumped through.