The new ACAS Early Conciliation process now means that for most claims, it is a legal requirement (unless an exemption applies) for a claimant to have submitted an EC notification form to ACAS before they issue an ET1 Claim Form in the Employment Tribunal.

The ACAS Early Conciliation process, which applies to claims issued on or after 6 May 2014, is a way in which parties can attempt to resolve a dispute without having to issue a claim.

There are four steps that Prospective Claimants will need to take before they can issue a claim in the Employment Tribunal:

Step 1: The Prospective Claimant must submit an “Early Conciliation Form” to ACAS providing their own contact details and the Prospective Respondent’s contact details.

Step 2: Upon receipt of the Early Conciliation Form, an ACAS Support Officer will make reasonable attempts to contact the Prospective Claimant to offer conciliation services.  If the offer is accepted, the support officer will attempt to contact the Prospective Respondent to see if they are agreeable to participating in the Early Conciliation process.

Step 3: If the offer of conciliation is accepted, an ACAS conciliator will be appointed to the case and will have one calendar month to try and settle the claim.  The one calendar month can be extended by up to two weeks with agreement by both parties in certain circumstances.

Step 4: If a settlement is reached, the parties will enter into an agreement setting out the terms that have been agreed.  If the offer of conciliation is rejected or an agreement is not reached between the parties, ACAS will issue an Early Conciliation Certificate to all the parties.  The Prospective Claimant can then decide whether they wish to issue a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

In the event that either party is unwilling to engage in the Early Conciliation process, ACAS will issue an Early Conciliation certificate to all parties leaving the Prospective Claimant to decide if they want to issue a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

Advantages of entering into the ACAS Early Conciliation Process for Prospective Claimants

  • If a settlement is reached, costs will be significantly less;
  • If a settlement is reached, it will avoid the need for the prospective claimant to pay a court fee to issue the claim and a hearing fee prior to the final hearing taking place should the claim not settle after the issue of proceedings;
  • The parties can agree terms that are not able to be awarded by the Employment Tribunal for example, an agreed reference to assist the prospective claimant in securing a new job and confidentiality surrounding the circumstances of the dispute;
  • It avoids the need to go through a lengthy litigation process which can be stressful and timely; and
  • The ACAS Early Conciliation Process allows further time to negotiate a settlement before having to issue a claim.

Disadvantages of entering into the ACAS Early Conciliation Process for Prospective Claimants

  • The ACAS Early Conciliation Form does not require prospective claimants to set out their claim(s) in detail and as such, employers may be unwilling to enter into settlement negotiations via Early Conciliation until they are fully aware of the details of the claim(s); and
  • Some employers will tactically want to wait until the prospective claimant has issued the claim and paid the relevant court fee to be sure that they will pursue the matter.

Whilst this new process appears to be user friendly, I advise that it is sensible for prospective claimants to take advice on the prospect of success of their claim, along with its potential value, before entering into negotiations to settle the dispute though the ACAS Early Conciliation process. For a discussion of your case with one of our employment law solicitors, please contact us here.