ACAS and the early conciliation scheme

Since 6 May 2014, all individuals must notify ACAS of their intention to bring an Employment Tribunal claim before their claim is lodged. Under the new scheme, the individual must either complete and then submit a prescribed form to ACAS that sets out brief details of their prospective claim, or alternatively they can do it by telephone.

An Early Conciliation Support Officer will then make initial contact with the individual to explain the process and ensure they wish to continue with the conciliation process. If so, the matter is then passed to a Conciliation Officer who will then contact the employer to see if the dispute can be resolved. To help this process, the time limit for submission of the potential claim is effectively paused for a period of one month, which can be extended by 14 days if necessary.

If both sides agree to conciliate and an agreement is reached, the Conciliation Officer will assist in recording this on a COT3 form.

Although the individual must notify ACAS of their intention to make a claim, it is not mandatory for either party to actually engage in conciliation. If one or both parties decline to engage in conciliation or the conciliation is unsuccessful, the Conciliation Officer will issue a certificate to all parties confirming that the individual has notified ACAS as required. Without this certificate, the individual cannot proceed to bring a claim.

The central aim of the scheme is to get workplace disputes resolved as early as possible without the need to go to tribunal; saving time, costs and inconvenience to both parties. To make the most of this scheme and start negotiations, individuals will need to have a clear understanding of the nature, prospects of success and potential value of their claim(s).

With employers facing the prospect of financial penalties should they lose a tribunal claim, this scheme provides an excellent opportunity for both parties to reach an early settlement and avoid lengthy, expensive and stressful claims. For expert advice on any workplace dispute or potential tribunal claim, contact one of our specialist employment lawyers. You can get in touch with Palmers Solicitors at: employment@palmerslaw.co.uk or on: 01268 240000.