Paul Reeves, employment partner at Stephenson Harwood, has discussed what employers need to know about the Early Conciliation Rules of Procedure.
Reeves said: ‘The government recently published the Early Conciliation Rules of Procedure. Potential claimants must generally go through ACAS to try to settle their claim before filing their ET1.’
According to Reeves, from 6 April 2014 the procedure for bringing a tribunal claim will be as follows:
• The prospective claimant fills out an ACAS form providing their name and address and the prospective respondent’s name and address (or they telephone ACAS, which completes the form).
• ACAS contacts the prospective claimant and, if he or she agrees, ACAS will try to contact the prospective respondent.
• ACAS will spend up to a month trying to settle the claim (extendable by 14 days if both parties agree and ACAS thinks there is a reasonable prospect of settlement).
• If settlement is not reached (or ACAS can’t reach the respondent), ACAS will issue an early conciliation statement to the prospective claimant (and respondent if contact has been made).
• The prospective claimant must have an early conciliation statement to launch an ET1 claim (except for certain exempt claims e.g. unfair dismissal in combination with an injunction, or class actions).
Reeves’ tips for employers are as follows:
• Make sure your mailroom/reception know to pass any calls/correspondence from ACAS to the appropriate person in HR/Legal, for example.
• Plan your negotiation strategy carefully before dealing with ACAS.
• Speak to a lawyer about the dispute at an early stage.
He continued: ‘If used appropriately, this could help resolve cases; however, the fact that claimants don’t have to engage in the process in good faith leaves it open to abuse.
‘The main benefit to claimants is to extend the time to lodge a claim, for example they could delay issuing a claim by up to four months post termination.’
Serena Stewart, associate, also contributed to this article.