If you also follow our Kidwells HR website, you will have seen an article earlier this year regarding ACAS Early Conciliation which is due to come into force for claims made on or after 6th May 2014. ACAS have now posted some guidance on how this will proceed.
The guidance is in the form of an “Early Conciliation Explained” leaflet and I have set out the main points of this below:
For the relevant claims, it will become mandatory for a Claimant to inform ACAS when they wish to make a claim. It is not mandatory for the Claimant to enter into Early Conciliation should he wish to proceed to Tribunal. However, it is advised in order to attempt to settle any claims before they reach proceedings which will benefit both Parties involved.
If a Claimant decides not to enter early conciliation then a certificate will be issued automatically explaining this fact and he can proceed with his claim.
Early Conciliation has many good features though:
A claim should never be issued unless the Claimant is certain that this is what he wants to do. The amount of claims reaching Tribunal has fallen dramatically since changes have been brought in with regards to fees for claims. Claimants are therefore more likely to be willing to enter into Early Conciliation to avoid the fees in bringing a claim and to settle their disputes as early as possible.
Early Conciliation is also a good way of deciphering who your claim is against. If an employee enters a claim against their Boss’ name instead of the Company then their claim can be struck out simply for this fact. Early Conciliation does not work in this way and, in any event, can iron out creases like these in a claim before it has been issued.
Early Conciliation can last up to 1 calendar month, thereafter, it will close and the certificate will be issued in order for the Claimant to bring a claim or to state that a settlement has been reached. A claim cannot be issued without this certificate.
You may be wondering how they have overcome the issue of limitations. For Employment Tribunal claims a Claimant has either 3 months or 6 months (depending on the grounds for the claim) from the date of the incident in question to bring a claim therefore, there is not a lot of time for the Claimant to think about whether to make a claim and then go through the ACAS Early Conciliation before bringing such claim. ACAS have overcome this, namely once they receive notice that a Claimant wishes to claim, their limitation period will be paused until a certificate of Early Conciliation has been received. This therefore eliminates a risk of a Claimant running out of time to bring a claim during his Early Conciliation period.
Early Conciliation has the potential to save both time and expense for both parties by bringing matters to a swift conclusion. It can also help to avoid an employment relationship becoming sour and resulting in an irretrievable breakdown between employee and employer by resolving matters quickly and therefore, potentially restoring any trust that has been lost.
Furthermore, any agreement that may be reached is agreed by both parties, not by an Employment Tribunal Judge, therefore both parties can walk away relatively happy rather than having a “winner” and a “loser” at hearing.
What Early Conciliation cannot do:
Each conciliator will be assigned to a particular case; parties will only ever deal with one conciliator. However, they should be aware that conciliators are not advisors, they cannot advise a party on the prospects of success for their claim and they cannot take sides. If a party wants this information then they will need to visit a solicitor who can also liaise with ACAS in Early Conciliation on their behalf.
It is therefore be beneficial to obtain solicitor’s advice before proceeding with a claim in order for them to assess and advise on the prospects of success of any claim.
In summary, Early Conciliation is a good development for the Employment Tribunal system, ultimately resulting in fewer claims reaching Tribunal and settling any claims with the agreement of both parties before the matter has a chance to reach the stage where a claim is issued.
I hope the above has shed some light on how ACAS Early Conciliation can assist claims however, should you want further advice then please get in contact and we will be willing to discuss.