06 Jun 2014
Over recent years, the employment tribunal process has seen a number of reforms intended to cut down on spurious claims and encourage the settlement of disputes at a much earlier stage, writes Andy Willis, Head of Litigation at Croner. One of the key changes has been the introduction of an early conciliation stage. This is intended to encourage both parties to settle their differences amicably without the need for formal tribunal proceedings. The process Since 6 May 2014 those who have wanted to lodge an employment tribunal claim have had to go through the early conciliation process. Prospective claimants who haven’t gone through this process will have their claim rejected by the tribunal. In order to satisfy this requirement, prospective claimants must provide certain information to Acas. They can do this by completing an early conciliation form, or by telephoning Acas directly. The information required includes the name and address of the person making the claim and the same information for the respondent (which will typically be the employer or ex employer). Once Acas has received this information, they have a duty to:
- make reasonable attempts to contact the prospective claimant;
- make reasonable attempts to contact the prospective respondent (provided the claimant consents to this); and
- try to promote a settlement between the parties during the early conciliation period (this normally lasts up to one calendar month, however a further extension of 14 days may be arranged by agreement if there is a reasonable prospect of settlement being achieved during that time).
- at any point during the early conciliation period (or extended period) the officer concludes that settlement of all or part of the dispute is not possible; or
- at the end of the early conciliation period (or extended period) settlement has not been reached.
- The deadlines by which an employment tribunal claim must be presented have been extended so that the early conciliation process can take place first.
- It is possible for prospective respondents to initiate early conciliation by contacting Acas themselves.
- A conciliation officer may continue to try to promote a settlement even after the prescribed period has expired.
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