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Early Conciliation Becomes Law

Published: 30/06/14

Although it was introduced in the Regulatory Reform Act 2013, Early Conciliation prior to employment tribunal has now become a legal requirement. All new tribunal claims (lodged on or after 6 May 2014) – require the claimant, unless an exemption applies, to have made an Early Conciliation notification to Acas.

Tribunal claims will not be accepted unless the complaint has been referred to Acas and a conciliation certificate issued. This certificate confirms that the Early Conciliation requirements have been met.

Acas tells us that the purpose of the legislation is to resolve disputes as early as possible and that settlement through conciliation is quicker, cheaper and perhaps more importantly – less stressful for all concerned.

The conciliation service is free, with Acas stating implicitly that they are independent and impartial and also completely confidential. Claimants are not required to have a representative, but they can appoint one if they want to.

To notify Acas about Early Conciliation complete the form on their website: www.acas.org.uk/earlyconciliation or telephone 0300 123 11 22.

The notification form asks for basic contact details for the claimant and their employer. Claimants should be careful to include the correct name for their employer. If a claim is subsequently made to the tribunal, the name of the employer on the ET1 will need to correspond to the name on the Early Conciliation notification form. If the names are different this could lead to the claim being rejected by the tribunal.

Once the request to Acas has been processed they will appoint a Conciliator. The Conciliator makes contact, explains the next steps and seeks agreement from the claimant that they wish to proceed with Early Conciliation, only then will they approach the employer. The Conciliator will aim to make contact with both parties by the end of the following working day.

The claimant only needs to take part in discussing the matter and attempt resolution it if they want to. Either they or the employer can stop the process at any time.

If Acas fails to make contact with the claimant over a reasonable period of time, or if the claimant indicates they do not want Early Conciliation, they will close the case and an Early Conciliation certificate will be issued.

Employers can also use Early Conciliation if they believe there is a workplace dispute which is likely to lead to tribunal proceedings. They can find out more on the Acas website at www.acas.org.uk/earlyconciliation

This is what Acas say are the specific benefits of Early Conciliation

• It informs. Parties can get a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the potential case, and explore the options for resolving their differences.

• It saves time and money. If parties can settle their differences, this will avoid the time, expense, risk and stress of going to tribunal.

• You are in control. Agreements to avoid a tribunal are on terms decided by the parties, not imposed by a tribunal. Agreed outcomes can include things not available at tribunals, such as a reference or an apology for example.

• It’s confidential. Everything can be kept confidential – Acas does not speak to anyone outside the process, whilst tribunal hearings are public.

• It can restore trust. If the claimant is still employed it increases the chance of avoiding a permanent breakdown of the employment relationship – if that is what both sides want to achieve.

• It can be a quick solution. Many cases can be dealt with in a few telephone calls, with agreed outcomes implemented very soon afterwards.

Additional information, some for download on Early Conciliation can be found on the Acas website.

Acas is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service; a publicly funded, independent organisation whose primary role is to help with employment relations by supplying up-to-date information, independent advice and high quality training, and working with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance.

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