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Conciliation, Conciliation, Conciliation

Fiona Hume, Astle Paterson’s Employment Law specialist, discusses the need to attempt early conciliation in employment disputes.

Fiona notes that “As part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 the government has introduced a requirement for ACAS to work to reach early conciliation of employment claims. The objective will be to settle disputes before they go to Tribunal. From 6th May 2014 before issuing a claim at Tribunal a claimant will be required to notify ACAS of their intention to do this. Indeed, a claimant will not be able to bring a claim at Tribunal unless they have told ACAS about their complaint and have received a conciliation certificate.

ACAS has stressed that this is a voluntary process so that prospective claimants must tell them about their claim but only need to take part in discussing the matter and attempting to resolve it if they want to.  Either they or their employer can stop the process at any time. The process is free. ACAS are impartial, independent and the process is confidential.  Whatever is discussed during conciliation cannot be used by either party at a Tribunal hearing. An employee can have a representative acting for them if they wish or they can follow the conciliation process themselves.

The requirement to notify ACAS applies to nearly all intended Tribunal claims although there are a few exceptions, for example, if a potential claimant is one of many people making a claim against the same employer and one person has already made a request to ACAS in the same dispute, the other potential claimants may not have to do so.”

In respect of the potential advantages of Early Conciliation Fiona confirms that, “ACAS are promoting the Early Conciliation process as saving time and money and giving the parties some control over the outcome. It can also be a quick solution, for example, a case could be dealt with by telephone calls with agreed outcomes implemented soon afterwards. The aim is no doubt to also reduce the number of claims filed at Tribunal, further decreasing the number of applications already reduced as a result of  the introduction last Autumn of payment of a fee.”

Further, “There is a knock on effect on the time period for bringing a claim at Tribunal. The effect of the claimant contacting ACAS for Early Conciliation is to “pause” the time limit for presenting their claim to Tribunal. This time limit will start to run again when the claimant receives their formal acknowledgement that the Early Conciliation has finished. They will then have at least one calendar month to present their claim.”

Please contact Fiona Hume of Astle Paterson (Solicitors in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire) on 01283 531366 or by way of email to fhume@astlepaterson.co.uk.

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