As of 1st December 2020, the ACAS Early Conciliation period has been extended to last for a set period of six weeks in all cases.
But who is ACAS and what is the Early Conciliation period?
ACAS is an independent public body that receives funding from the government. It provides free and impartial advice to both employers and employees on issues relating to employment law including best practice, policies and assist with early settlement of claims.
For most claims which are brought in the Employment Tribunal, it is a requirement that the Claimant notify ACAS prior to issuing proceedings, of his/her intention to issue proceedings. This is easily done by filing in a simple form on the ACAS website.
Once the Claimant has notified ACAS, the matter will be referred to an ACAS conciliator, also known as a conciliation officer. The conciliation officer will contact the Claimant to explain the early conciliation process. They will check the information given on the form, discuss the matter generally and establish whether the Claimant wants to try to settle the dispute. If the Claimant is open to negotiation, ACAS will contact the Respondent (the employer) to start the process of trying to reach a settlement.
Neither party are compelled to enter into negotiations and ACAS does not have the power to force participation in settlement discussions. However, it is often a good idea for the parties to participate in the process seriously before matters proceed to a more formal stage. Once proceedings are issued at the Employment Tribunal, the parties have to adhere to the Orders given by the Tribunal and in the majority of cases legal costs will then start to be incurred.
ACAS does not provide legal advice and cannot advise either of the participants on what to do or what is reasonable in terms of negotiating a settlement. For this reason, it is advisable for parties to obtain their own legal advice on the strength of their case during this process. Knowing the likelihood of success is an important factor when negotiating a settlement.
Once the six week period has passed, ACAS will issue a certificate to the Claimant to confirm they were notified of the claim as requiered. The certificate has a number on it which needs to be quoted on the Claim Form (ET1) when issuing proceedings at the Employment Tribunal.
For any assistance with the Early Conciliation process or other employment-related matter, please contact our Head of Employment, Ilinca Mardarescu.