Recent research carried out and published by the workplace conciliation body ACAS reveals that the introduction of the process of early conciliation has successfully reduced the number of claimants going to court by as much as 71%.
To date, of those who have gone down this route, 92% of employers and over 85% of claimants found the service to be effective and said that they would use it again.
Since the 6th May 2014, employees can no longer submit an employee tribunal claim without an early conciliation certificate to show that the claim has been submitted to the early conciliation process. The Government has said that it hopes the introduction of the initiative will encourage employees and employers to settle disputes outside of the formal employment tribunal system, saving both time and money and reducing the need for tribunals.
The process of early conciliation, introduced in 2014, requires claimants to notify ACAS of the problem before making an employment tribunal claim. Its aim is to try to settle a dispute without the need for legal proceedings by directing both employee and employer to its reconciliation service which, by the way, is also free of charge.
To begin the process, individuals must first contact the organisation by completing an on-line or a paper form, or by simply telephoning ACAS. Once this has been done the file is passed to a conciliator and ACAS will contact the employee to establish whether they are willing for the employer to be contacted to initiate early conciliation.
Employers are under no obligation to participate. However, if both parties agree, the conciliator will attempt to reach a settlement between employer and employee using the same techniques and approaches used as if proceeding after a formal tribunal had commenced. Such is the success of the initiative, during the past year ACAS has dealt with no fewer than 92,000 cases, an increase of over 1000 cases compared with the first year of the scheme’s operation.
The process of early conciliation is ACAS says, nearly always initiated by employees. However the service is also open to employers seeking to resolve an issue with an employee. Crucially for employers, initiating the process of early conciliation does not affect the customary time limits within which an employment tribunal has to be brought.
Interestingly, the number of employers choosing to make use of the service has seen an increase of over 60% compared with the same period during the previous year, with enquiries in excess of 4000 cases.
Whether it is to assist an employer or employee, ACAS’s Chairman Sir Brendan Barber always advises trying to resolve a dispute at the earliest possible stage. However, if this is not possible and anyone finds themselves considering legal action, then they should consider ACAS’s early conciliation service first. With such a success rate, he may well be right.
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