As of 6th May 2014, claimants who wish to bring a tribunal claim against their employers must now engage in the compulsory “Early Conciliation” process. This process is facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and is aimed at encouraging the parties to reach a settlement to any employment dispute without having to proceed with a hearing at the employment tribunal.
The compulsory Early Conciliation process will apply to most claimants, although there are exceptional circumstances where the individual will not need to comply with this procedure. For the majority of cases however, the claimant must now contact ACAS either by telephone or by completing a notification form to advise of their dispute. ACAS will then contact the individual in order to see whether they would be interested in engaging in Early Conciliation and, if so, a conciliator will then aim to contact both parties in an attempt to reach settlement. If settlement is not possible, ACAS will issue a certificate marking the end of the process. The individual will then need to issue their claim with the tribunal if they did wish to commence proceedings against their employer.
The Early Conciliation process extends the time by which an individual has to bring their claim. In most cases, an individual has three months minus one day to issue their tribunal claim but, by engaging in Early Conciliation, this time limit stops. Time starts running again from the date the claimant is deemed to have received the Early Conciliation certificate confirming that Early Conciliation between the parties was not possible. Claimants will not therefore know the exact new time limit for bringing their claims until they have received their Early Conciliation certificate.
Whilst Early Conciliation is not a new process itself and has always been available, it is now largely a compulsory step. It is hoped that by making this a compulsory requirement, claims reaching the employment tribunal will be further reduced as the parties will be encouraged to reach a settlement in a faster, cheaper and less time consuming way without the stress of a tribunal hearing. This is a further tactic by the Government to reduce tribunal claims, something which it has already achieved by bringing in Employment Tribunal Fees in July 2013 - employment tribunal claims between October and December 2013 were down 79% compared to the previous year.
If you would like to know more about how these changes may affect you, please feel free to call one of our employment team or myself on 01908 660966 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or my team on EmployWeb@franklins-sols.co.uk.