On 6 April 2014 early conciliation with ACAS will be introduced as part of the employment tribunal system reform (set out 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 employee/complainant  must complete and submit an ‘Early Conciliation’ form to ACAS  that 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 employers may 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.

Type of issues will Early Conciliation help resolve?

Early Conciliation will help resolve the majority of workplace disputes which may lead to an employment tribunal, including:

  • unfair dismissal claims
  • workplace discrimination
  • redundancy payments or disputes around selection procedures
  • deductions from wages or unpaid notice/holiday pay
  • rights to time off or flexible working
  • equal pay

Note a new discretionary power exists for an employment tribunal to impose a financial penalty on an employer found to have breached an individual’s rights in order to encourage greater compliance with employment obligations.

For more information http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4028