From today (1st December 2020) the ACAS Early Conciliation period has changed.
The Early Conciliation stage is a mandatory process in which anyone that wishes to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
ACAS contacts the potential claimant and see whether they would like to conciliate. If they would like to, an ACAS representative will discuss with the employee and employer whether they are able to resolve the issue without resorting to litigation.
The limitation period determines how long the claimant will have from the date the claim arises to bring their claim to an Employment Tribunal. For example, to make an unfair dismissal claim, the limitation period is three months less one day from the date employment ends.
The key change is that the current four-week period conciliation period with an extension of fourteen has changed to six weeks with no opportunity to extend under the provisions of The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1003) (the “Amendment Regulations”). The possibility to end the process before the end of the six weeks will still stand. The rationale for the change is to give the parties more time to resolve the issues through ACAS i.e. settlement option.
Would this be a positive or negative change?
The changes implemented could help make the ACAS conciliation process simply, it may also allow better engagement and resolution before it reaches Tribunal. The removal of the fourteen-day extension, would mean the negotiations would need to be tightly managed within a six-week period to settle and the opportunity to go to Tribunal is not lost.
ACAS will also have greater flexibility in handling errors, they will be able to contact the prospective claimant to correct these errors and obtaining any missing information.
Where did these reformed provisions come from?
The Ministry of Justice data showed that there were more than 45,000 Employment Tribunal claims outstanding by the 23rd August 2020. This backlog has increased since the beginning of lockdown and has increased by 23% since March 2020. Whether these reforms have a succeeding impact is yet to be seen.
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