On 6 April 2014 early conciliation with ACAS will be introduced as part of the employment tribunal system reform as laid down in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. An employee who wishes to make an employment tribunal claim will need to contact ACAS first and ACAS will resolve to settle the dispute first.
The conciliation process, if agreed, will take one month to complete (with a two week extension in some difficult cases) and attempt to negotiate a settlement. A claim may only proceed to the employment tribunal after a certificate has been issued by ACAS.
The claimant must complete and submit a short form to ACAS an ‘Early Conciliation’ form giving their basic details and those of their employer only. Details of the incident are not required at this stage.
Submission of the Early Conciliation form will ‘stop the clock’ on the time period for a prospective claimant to submit their claim. Time will only start to run again when the certificate is issued by ACAS. Therefore the time limit for most claims will be three months plus the time during which ACAS conciliates. If time is due to expire within one month of the clock re-starting after ACAS involvement, there will be a minimum one month period to enter the claim.
The decision to accept the offer of conciliation will be voluntary. Claimants may decline to settle and proceed to lodge their claim. Repondents can also decline to take part.
A prospective Respondent will only be contacted by ACAS if the employee is interested in conciliation. However, it is open to prospective Respondents to initiate the conciliation process before an employee does so. In the event that a claim is submitted, post-claim conciliation through ACAS will still be available in the same way as it is currently.
It will be an administrative hurdle for claimants and time will tell if this along with the other reforms implemented with the legislation will reduce what has been an increasing number of employment tribunal claims in recent years.
For more information http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4028