Employment Tribunal claimants now normally have to notify ACAS of their complaint before putting in a tribunal claim. Known as ‘Early conciliation’, this gives an opportunity to resolve the dispute through conciliation before going to a tribunal. It applies to Great Britain, not Northern Ireland.
From 6th May 2014, Employment Tribunal claimants normally have to notify ACAS of their complaint before putting in a tribunal claim. This gives an opportunity to resolve the dispute through conciliation before going to a tribunal.
Notification to ACAS is through a simple form submitted online, or by post or telephone. The normal 3 month time limit for submitting a claim is extended to allow for the conciliation period.
The rules do not mean the claimant or employer has to engage with ACAS. If either party is unwilling to conciliate, or if conciliation is unsuccessful, the claim can go to a tribual. Also, ACAS does not get in touch with the employer unless the claimant consents.
This Early Conciliation scheme is on top of existing rules encouraging use of internal grievance or disciplinary procedures: see Grievance, disciplinary and other procedures.
The scheme opened on 6 April 2014, but was not compulsory for proceedings lodged between 6 April and 5 May.
- Early Conciliation website (ec.acas.org.uk). The online request form is at ec.acas.org.uk/Submission/Create
- ACAS leaflet (link to acas.org.uk),
- ACAS Early Conciliation Scheme is Live: Essential Facts for Employees (link to yesslaw.org.uk),
- Mills & Reeve briefing (pdf, link to mills-reeve.com).
A bit more detail
The government issued a response to a consultation on detailed implementation on 12th July 2013: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/early-conciliation-consultation-on-proposals-for-implementation. The consultation document stresses that the new rules are not intended to be a barrier to justice. For example, when notifying ACAS there is not a requirement for the claimant to describe his or her claim. Such a requirement would enable the employer to make technical legal arguments that the claims being put to the tribunal were not adequately described to ACAS (but there may still be problems: see workingtheory.co.uk/2013/early-conciliation.html). Also the claimant (or employer) is free to say to ACAS that they do not want conciliation, and the employer will only be contacted by ACAS if the claimant agrees. Further, the claimant does not need to contact ACAS if the employer has done so.
One somewhat technical complication is that if the claimant intends to bring the claim against more than one person (eg the employer plus one or more individuals involved), there must be a separate early conciliation form for each person – www.worklifelaw.co.uk/2014/03/amendment-to-early-conciliation-rules/