ACAS Early Conciliation came into force on 6th April 2014. Between 6th April 2014 and 5th May 2014 there was a transitional period, with the system becoming mandatory for claims presented on or after 6th May 2014.
What is it ACAS Early Conciliation?
In summary, Claimants now have to submit details of their dispute to ACAS before issuing a claim and there is a conciliation period of one calendar month during which time the ACAS Conciliation Officer (CO) must try to promote a settlement between the parties. The limitation period is extended from the date that the Claimant contacts ACAS until the date that the Early Conciliation Certificate (EC Certificate) is issued.
If Early Conciliation is refused by either party or unsuccessful the CO will issue an EC certificate
The Claimant must then ensure that they include the reference number given by ACAS on the EC certificate in their ET1 Claim Form otherwise their claim may be rejected.
How does it work?
Before the Claimant presents their claim to the Employment Tribunal they must follow the Early Conciliation procedure which comprises the following steps:
Step 1: The prospective Claimant submits an EC form or telephones ACAS. The Claimant must provide details of their name and address and the name and address of the prospective respondent(s). There is no need at this stage for the Claimant to give any information on the nature of their claim.
Step 2: An Early Conciliation Support Officer makes initial contact with the prospective claimant. They will explain the EC process, take some further details from the prospective claimant (such as the length of employment, the date of dismissal or incident complained of, the best time and means for further contact and whether the prospective respondent is still trading) and check that they wish to proceed with conciliation. As long as they do, the prospective claimant’s information will be sent to a CO.
Step 3: The CO will contact the prospective claimant. In addition to discussing their complaint, the CO will check that the prospective claimant agrees to the CO contacting the prospective respondent. As long as the CO is able to contact the prospective respondent and the prospective respondent is willing to participate in EC, the CO must try to promote a settlement between the parties within the one month EC period. The EC period can be extended once, by up to 14 days.
What happens if the parties reach a settlement?
If all the Claimant’s complaints are settled, this can be recorded in a COT3 or a private settlement agreement. However, where only some of the issues are settled, it may still be necessary for the CO to issue an EC certificate so the Claimant can submit claims to the Employment Tribunal in respect of the outstanding issues.
What happens if conciliation fails?
If the EC period, including any extension of that period, expires without settlement having been reached, ACAS will issue an EC certificate and the Claimant must ensure that they include the unique reference number given by ACAS on the EC certificate in their ET1 Claim Form. ET1 Claim Forms (and ET3 Response Forms) are currently being amended to provide for this.
The conciliator may continue to promote settlement after the expiry of the EC period, as they normally would, but this does not have the effect of extending the limitation period which stops with the issue of the EC certificate.
How is the extension of time calculated?
The method for working out the extension of time for presenting claims is as follows:
Day A is the day on which the prospective Claimant telephones ACAS or their EC form is received.
Day B is the day on which the prospective Claimant receives the EC certificate.
The period beginning with the day after Day A and ending with Day B is not counted when working out when a time limit expires.
However, where a time limit would (if not extended by these provisions) expire during the period beginning with Day A and ending one month after Day B, the time limit expires at the end of that period instead, i.e. one month after Day B.
For further information on this, or advice on any other employment law matter, please get in touch with Milton Keynes employment lawyer Maria Gallucci or call on 01908 202150.