Acas has released statistics on the number of early conciliation notifications made in the period April to September 2014 and the status of notified cases between April to June 2014. 

The early conciliation scheme has been a mandatory step for employees wishing to bring employment tribunal claims against their employers since 6 May 2014 although it was available on a voluntary basis from 6 April 2014. The process was introduced to give parties an opportunity to settle workplace disputes without tribunal litigation.

Once a notification is made, Acas contacts both parties to offer a period (usually a month but this can be extended) in which to conciliate. Acas has a legal duty to offer conciliation, but the parties do not have to accept the offer. If the parties do not conciliate, Acas issues a certificate and the parties can proceed to make a claim. A total of 37,404 notifications were made to Acas between 6 April and 30 September. The number of notifications from May – September are steadily consistent at around 6,500 per month.

Acas report that only 10% of employees and employers reject the initial offer of early conciliation.  The majority of cases notified to Acas between April and June (some 58% - see below) did not progress to a tribunal claim and only 18% of these cases resulted in a COT3 settlement.

Click here to view table.

The 58% of claims that did not progress to a tribunal claim include claims that employees decided not to pursue further after conciliation or where agreement was reached without the need for a COT3.

Although the statistics suggest that the early conciliation regime may be working, there are nevertheless, many factors which could contribute to matters not progressing to tribunal claims. It has been suggested that if the early conciliation process is itself weeding out yet more of the ‘weaker’ claims, then there will in due course be a corresponding increase in the rate of success of claims that actually proceed to the tribunal. Many commentators consider that the tribunal fee system is the dominant factor which explains the 58% figure with the suggestion that potentially meritorious claims are still being deterred because of the fee regime.

The results of an Acas survey on the early conciliation service are due to be published during 2015 and this will provide further details around the factors influencing employees to not progress their claims further.

Please click here for the Acas statistics.