Early conciliation - a new regime for tribunal claims

08 April 2014

New rules which require parties to consider settling their employment disputes before a claim is issued came into effect over the weekend. They are not mandatory until 6 May, but are available for use now.

The most important points to note are:

  • When the scheme becomes mandatory, employees wishing to make a claim in the Tribunal will have to notify Acas before the claim is issued.
  • Acas will then contact the employer identified on the notification and offer conciliation.
  • If both sides wish to attempt settlement, Acas will assist them.
  • The statutory time limits for bringing claims (normally three months from the relevant act) are paused as soon as the notification to Acas is submitted, and remain paused until Acas issues a certificate confirming the end of the conciliation period where settlement has not been reached.
  • The certificate will have a unique code which the employee has to put on any eventual Tribunal claim form to demonstrate that the conciliation process has been followed. A claim will not be accepted without the code.

Critics of the scheme have raised concerns that it will act as a further administrative barrier to employees with legitimate claims and will inevitably produce satellite litigation, particularly in relation to time limits. Whether those fears are justified, or whether the Government's confidence that the regime will see the growth of a new culture of settlement, remains to be seen. Regardless, there is no doubt that the scheme marks a radical departure for employment litigation. Although the scheme will affect would-be claimants in the first instance, employers will need to give careful thought to the impact of early conciliation on their settlement tactics as the new system beds down. If you have any questions about early conciliation, or any other employment law matter, please don't hesitate to get in touch.