The Acas Early Conciliation scheme will start on 6 April 2014 when the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (Commencement No. 5, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2014 (SI 2014/253) and the Employment Tribunals (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/254) come into force. There will be a transitional period between 6 April and 5 May 2014 during which prospective claimants can participate in early conciliation which will become mandatory in respect of claims presented on or after 6 May 2014.
Therefore, early conciliation will be available from 6 April 2014 and will be compulsory for tribunal claims lodged on or after 6 May 2014.
Under the new rules, Claimants will need to contact Acas before issuing a tribunal claim, albeit there is no obligation to actually engage in conciliation. From 6 May 2014, it will not be possible to lodge an employment tribunal claim without an early conciliation certificate issued by Acas. Acas will attempt to promote a settlement before a claim can be submitted to the tribunal. The time limit for bringing a claim will be put on hold while early conciliation is attempted.
The four steps to the new early conciliation procedure are:
- Step 1. Before lodging a claim, claimants will have to provide Acas with details of their names and address and of the respondent either by completing the early conciliation form on line or by post. Alternatively prospective claimants will be able to telephone Acas who will fill in the form. It will not be possible to deliver an early conciliation form by hand.
- Step 2. Acas must then send a copy of the information to a conciliation officer.
- Step 3. The Acas conciliation officer has a period of up to a month to try to promote a settlement, although this can be extended for up to a maximum of 14 days provided the prospective claimant and prospective respondent consent to the extension and the conciliation officer considers that there is a reasonable prospect of achieving a settlement before the expiry of the extended period.
- Step 4. If a settlement is not reached, either because settlement is not possible in the conciliation officer’s view or the prescribed period expires, the officer must issue a certificate to that effect. A claimant may not submit a claim without this certificate. Where Acas issues an early conciliation certificate, it will send a copy to the prospective claimant and if Acas has had contact with the prospective respondent during the period for early conciliation, to the prospective respondent by either e-mail or by post.
It will not be necessary to comply with the above requirements in cases where:
- The claimant is presenting their claim on the same claim form as other claimants. In such instances, a claimant may rely upon the fact that another claimant has complied with the requirement for early conciliation and has a certificate from Acas.
- The claim form also includes a claim of a type where early conciliation is not required.
- The prospective respondent has already contacted Acas in relation to that dispute.
- The claimant does not have to comply with the requirement for early conciliation where a claim for unfair dismissal is accompanied by a claim for interim relief.
For more information on this, please contact us on 01483 303636.
Clare McDairmant, Solicitor & Marketing Manager, Just Employment Ltd