Regulations outlining how Early Conciliation (EC) will work when the service is launched in April were published last week.
Under the Employment Tribunals (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2014, anyone thinking of lodging an employment tribunal claim will have to notify Acas before they do so.
As a result, most claims relating to individual employment rights will go to Acas in the first instance (rather than the Tribunals Service), except those that are exempt under regulation three. This includes where the requirement to contact Acas does not apply to one of the claims. For example, in a claim for unfair dismissal and interim relief. And, although the requirement to contact Acas applies to a claim for unfair dismissal, it does not apply to a claim for interim relief, so where both are claimed there is no need to contact Acas.
In the case of multiple claimants, at least one of the claimants has to contact Acas and be issued with an EC Certificate.
Where both parties agree to participate in EC, the conciliator will have up to one calendar month from the date of receipt of the EC form to facilitate a settlement between them. If at any point during that period, the conciliator believes that there is no reasonable prospect of achieving a settlement, or if discussions fail, or either party elects to withdraw, the conciliator will end the process and issue an EC Certificate.
Where the one month period is due to expire but the conciliator considers that there is a reasonable prospect of achieving a settlement, they may, with the agreement of both parties, extend the conciliation period by up to a further two weeks.
Any prospective claimant who declines an offer of EC made as a result of a prospective respondent request can still contact Acas at a later stage, if on reflection they decide that they wish to attempt settlement, and the respondent agrees.
Once EC is up and running, the pre-conciliation service that Acas currently offers will no longer continue. However, just as the current service is free to use for both employers and employees, EC will also be free.
Neil Todd from Thompsons Solicitors commented: “It is important that Claimants seek advice from a trade union representative in the course of the early conciliation process. The Early Conciliation Request Form, which a prospective Claimant will be required to submit to Acas, will provide them with the opportunity to give details of their trade union representative. In those circumstances Acas will contact the trade union representative directly.”
To access the regulations, go here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/254/made