Employment tribunals and ACAS Early Conciliation.
Like it or not, before you take a claim to an employment tribunal you need to contact ACAS to try to achieve a settlement through them. ACAS early conciliation is another weapon in the Ministry of Justice’s current armoury which they seem to be using to reduce or cut out all tribunal claims. Full information on ACAS early Conciliation can be found here, but see below for a quick overview.
In Practice All claims must be sent to ACAS via their website under the early conciliation scheme. There is no real shortcut as the new tribunal forms require a certificate number which ACAS will provide after they have tried to conciliate. After you contact ACAS they will get back to you to find out what the claim is about, they will then try to achieve a settlement with your employer. If they are unable to reach a settlement after a reasonable time (usually 1 month) the ACAS conciliator will issue you with a certificate number in order that you can continue with your claim.
Time Limits. There is a 3-month time limit for you to take your claim to a tribunal that is 3 months from the date of the event complained of, so if you were dismissed on 1st February your claim would have to be received at the tribunal before midnight on 30th April. However, during the ACAS conciliation, the clock stops and, in general, the time spent is added to your time limit. You must be aware that there are some technical limitations and you would be well advised to get professional help if you are at all unsure as time limits are very important and claims will not be heard at the tribunal if they are presented out of time.
Commentary. As yet we have no idea whether ACAS early conciliation will do any more than delay the inevitable. On its own it may well have produced good results, but in conjunction with tribunal fees it remains to be seen if employers have an appetite to settle claims, before the claimant has put up the money for a claim. Certainly, we have seen that businesses have refused any attempt at settlement before the claimant has paid the full £1,200 fee to the tribunal, working on the principle that many employees will be reluctant to invest that type of money into their case. On a positive note, tribunal judges have been adding the fee to any awards made to claimants effectively making the respondent refund the fee. Alpha Law’s experts will be able to help so if you have a claim, please call us on 0115 856 1625.