Following changes earlier in the year to tribunal procedure rules (LELR 690), amendments in relation to early conciliation (EC) took effect from 1 December.

The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure)(Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure)(Amendment) Regulations 2020 amended the  Schedule to the Employment Tribunals (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2014. 

Rule six now provides that EC notifications received on or after 1 December 2020 have a standard period of six weeks to allow for conciliation between the parties. The ACAS conciliation officer will not have a discretion to extend the conciliation period beyond the six-week period.

For notifications received before 1 December 2020, the period of conciliation is up to one month and can be extended by two weeks if there is the prospect of an agreement.

There is no change to the provisions which extend the limitation period in employment tribunal proceedings where early conciliation applies.  The period of early conciliation - the period when ACAS receives the early conciliation request (Day A) and the day the early conciliation certificate is received (Day B) - does not count towards the time limit for lodging an employment tribunal claim. 

The effect on time limits means that the period of conciliation is now six weeks instead of four. Remember though that the period of early conciliation may not always last for the full six weeks as it can be brought to an end earlier by either party.

Rule two has also been amended to provide that: “ACAS may at any point during the period for early conciliation contact the prospective claimant to correct errors or obtain any missing information”. This enables conciliation officers to resolve minor errors during the period of conciliation and should hopefully reduce delays.  Where there is any doubt as to whether the error is one ACAS can resolve further advice should be taken.

Jo Seery, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “While it is much clearer to have one early conciliation period of six weeks, it will only be of benefit if employers use the time to constructively engage in the process."