Early conciliation (EC) is now compulsory. Consequently, almost all prospective claimants have to contact ACAS to give them their name and address and that of the prospective respondent before they are able to bring a complaint to an employment tribunal (ET). According to Simon Rice-Birchall, partner at Eversheds, that is where any obligation ends.
He said: ‘The claimant can, once this information is provided, refuse an attempt to conciliate. They will still be issued with an EC certificate that will enable them to pursue their claim in the ET, subject of course to any fee that is payable.’
Rice-Birchall added that, similarly, a respondent is under no obligation to comply with any attempt to conciliate. ‘However, it will be in the respondent’s interests to do so, not least because if the respondent does not engage in the process, it will not then receive the EC certificate from ACAS when the conciliation attempts come to an end.
‘The advantage of receiving the EC certificate is that it will enable respondents to calculate any extended time limit in which the claimant must bring their complaint. Broadly, the EC process “stops the clock” from the day after the claimant contacts ACAS until the day on which he or she receives the EC certificate.’
He added that there is also the possibility of a further extension of up to one calendar month, as once EC has ended the claimant will have at least one month in which to bring a complaint, provided he or she contacted ACAS within the original time limit for bringing the tribunal claim.