The 6 April 2014 saw the launch on the ACAS Early Conciliation (EC) scheme. This is a free service where anyone considering bringing an employment tribunal claim must first contact ACAS to try and resolve their dispute quickly without the need for legal action. The first month was labelled as a “transitional month” during which parties could elect to enter into EC if they wished but were not obliged to do so. However, from 6 May 2014, a potential claimant must contact ACAS before presenting most employment tribunal claims. The three stage process is as follows:-

Step 1 – The potential claimant telephones ACAS or completes an EC form with their name and address and the Respondents’ name and address. A separate EC form would need to be completed for each prospective respondent.

Step 2 – A correctly complete EC form will be passed to an early conciliation support officer (ECSO) to make initial contact with the potential claimant. If the potential claimant wants to participate in EC, their details will be passed to a conciliation officer. The potential claimant does not have to engage in EC if they do not want too. If they choose not to participate in EC, an EC certificate will be issued with a unique reference number. This number needs to be included on the ET1 form if they wished to present an employment claim.

Step 3 – The conciliation officer will contact the potential claimant and respondent. If the potential respondent wants to participate in EC the conciliation officer will try to promote a settlement within one month (from the date the initial contact was made to ACAS). It may be extended once, by up to 14 days. If the potential respondent refuses to participate in EC or settlement discussions fails, an EC certificate will be issued.

ACAS have today reported information on the take up of the EC scheme during the transitional period. The numbers look promising. Around 1,000 people per week contacted ACAS about EC and 98{ba3215b0bf35eaeb06be458b3396ffbfc50bb9db10c9ff1594dfc3875e90ea48} went on to engage in EC to try and resolve the dispute. There definitely appears to be an appetite for resolution, outside of the legal process, but it is presently too early to tell it’s success rate, as most parties are still within their one month settlement period. Time will tell.

The link to the ACAS report can be found here

For more information on the new EC procedure or how to calculate the new time limits, please contact me.