4 April 2014: ACAS Early Conciliation:
Acas’ Early Conciliation service will be optional from 6 April and will become obligatory from the 6th May 2014 if claimants want to bring Tribunal claims.
Very much in brief:
- Claimants will have to contact ACAS for ‘Early Conciliation’ before submitting the majority of Employment Tribunal claims.
- An Early Conciliation Officer will then contact the claimant to discuss their problem
- If appropriate, the Officer will then contact the employer
- Neither party has to cooperate with early conciliation, and if no resolution can be reached, an Early Conciliation Certificate will be issued. Claimants must use the number from that certificate when submitting an Employment Tribunal claim.
- Claimants get more time, in addition to the usual limitation period (3 months for most claims) in order to bring a claim when Early Conciliation is used.
- The limitation period extension will be extended for up to one month.
It is clearly a good idea to encourage the parties to talk to each other before the issue of proceedings. Where grievance or dismissal proceedings have already taken place, then there may be little new that the parties say to each other.
However the intervention of an Early Conciliation Officer might well help resolve matters before the parties slug it out in the Tribunal system. On the other hand many employers, knowing that claimants are reluctant to pay up to £1,200 in Tribunal fees, may be hang on in the hope that the claimant gives up and goes away.
Regarding time limits for starting a claim the ACAS leaflet states:
Does Early Conciliation affect the timescale to make a tribunal claim? In order to allow sufficient time for Early Conciliation to take place, changes have been made to the time limits for an employee to bring an Employment Tribunal claim once the Early Conciliation process has been started. These time limits are known as limitation periods. Generally the limitation periods for bringing claims at the Employment Tribunal are either three or six calendar months depending on the nature of the claim. So for example if a person has been dismissed, they would have three calendar months from the date of dismissal to make a claim for unfair dismissal.
‘When the claimant contacts Acas this will ‘pause’ the time limit for presenting their claim to a tribunal. This pause can be for up to one calendar month, plus a further 14 days if more time is needed. The time limit will start to run again when the claimant receives their formal acknowledgement (the Certificate) that Early Conciliation has finished. Once Early Conciliation has ended the claimant will have at least one calendar month in which to present their claim. However, please bear in mind that if the claimant was already late for making a tribunal claim when requesting Early Conciliation s/he will still be late afterwards. It is the claimant’s responsibility to make sure that any claim is presented on time, and only a tribunal can decide whether the claim is in time or not; the Conciliator cannot decide or advise on this point.’
See more on the ACAS website.