The Government has launched its consultation on proposals for Early Conciliation (EC), the implementation of which will require prospective Tribunal Claimants to notify ACAS of their claim prior to lodging it with the Employment Tribunal. The Consultation focuses on how EC will work in practice. The proposed process is as follows:
1. Notifying ACAS
A prospective Claimant will have to notify ACAS of their claim using a form. It is proposed that this will contain only 'prescribed information': the prospective Claimant's and prospective Respondent's names, addresses and contact details. When ACAS receive the form, the limitation period for lodging a claim will be suspended while conciliation is attempted, and a two-stage contact process will begin.
2. 'First Stage Contact'
The prospective Claimant will be contacted by an Early Conciliation Support Officer (ECSO) by the end of the next working day. They will discuss the process of conciliation and will clarify any misunderstandings regarding the prospective claim. There are two possible outcomes of this meeting:
- The prospective Claimant may decide not to pursue their claim or EC, in which case a certificate will still be issued by ACAS, allowing a claim to be brought if the prospective Claimant changes his/her mind.
- The prospective Claimant will go ahead with EC, and the prescribed information will be passed to a conciliator ahead of 'Second Stage Contact'.
If, after 'reasonable attempts', the prospective Claimant is uncontactable, the ECSO will close the case and a certificate will be issued stating that the obligation to contact ACAS has been complied with for EC purposes.
3. 'Second Stage Contact'
If the prospective Claimant decides to participate in EC, a conciliator will contact the prospective Respondent within two working days of receiving the EC form. The Respondent can decide to go ahead with EC, or not to. If the prospective Respondent declines to participate in EC, the conciliator will tell the prospective Claimant, and a certificate will be issued.
If both parties agree to EC, the conciliator will have one calendar month from the date of receipt of the EC form in which to reach settlement. An extension of up to two weeks may be granted with the permission of the parties, if the conciliator believes there to be a reasonable chance of settlement. If conciliation is successful, a certificate will nevertheless be issued to accommodate for last minute settlement failures.
If conciliation fails for whatever reason, the process will end and a certificate will be issued. The limitation period for lodging a claim will begin again on the day following the receipt of the certificate.
4. Lodging the Claim
Upon lodging a claim, it is proposed that Claimants will be required to quote the 'EC Reference number' provided on their ACAS certificate. Failure to do so will result in the dismissal of the claim.
The consultation closes on 15 February 2013.