Where are we with Acas Early Conciliation?
In May 2014 it became mandatory for claimants (eg current or former employees) to notify Acas of their intention to bring a claim to the employment tribunal before they can submit an ET1 claim. Acas are notified either online via an EC form or by telephone.
Participation in the process is voluntary and there is no legal requirement on either party to enter into it. Employers are also able to request early conciliation.
Where parties do wish to partake, Acas will attempt to conciliate for up to 1 month. It is possible for one extension of up to 14 days to be agreed.
Early conciliation also affects the timescale for a potential claimant to lodge their claim. Generally a claimant has 3 months from the date of the act complained of to lodge an employment tribunal claim. Early conciliation effectively pauses the time limit.
In a nutshell, early conciliation was introduced to see if issues could be resolved without the need for an employment tribunal claim.
Where are we 6 months on? Has it helped to reduced the number of claims?
The figures published by Acas show;
1. Acas has conciliated in 37,000 cases
2. 3% of early conciliation requests came from the employer.
3.10% of employees reject the offer of early conciliation once they have submitted the EC form.
4. Similarly, 10% of employers decline to participate in early conciliation when acas contacts them
5. Preliminary indications show that 18% of early conciliations resulted in a settlement under a COT3 agreement.
6. Of those that did not result in settlement, over 2/3rds did not progress to a tribunal claim (but bear in mind there may be a delay built into this as an employee will have least a further month once ec conciliation has ended to bring a claim, and they might not have done so during the acas survey).
It is difficult to assess the significant part of ACAS early conciliation the reduction of claims, as other factors have also contributed to this, in particular the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013.
That being said the process is clearly having a positive impact in helping parties to conciliate rather than litigate.
Going forward I suspect we will see more of the same but alongside this perhaps parties may consider using workplace mediation as an alternative to litigation?
Any questions you have about mediation or tribunal litigation or any employment related matter please contact Marie Walsh.