From 6 April there will be a new process that must be completed before most claims can be started at the Employment Tribunal. The new process is called Early Conciliation and will be run by ACAS.
The Early Conciliation (EC) process will require claimants to complete a simple form or make a telephone call to notify ACAS that they intend to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal. If this is not done the claim will not be issued by the tribunal.
After receiving the notification ACAS will try to help resolve the dispute between the parties. If this cannot be done then ACAS will issue a certificate which allows the Claimant to issue their claim. The time limits that apply to a claim will be paused for up to one month to allow the EC process to take place - some further extensions can be made to allow for finalising a settlement.
The aim of the process is to help resolve employment disputes more quickly, saving time and cost for the parties involved and the tribunal service.
The idea behind EC is absolutely right in promoting early settlement of cases but it will be interesting to see how it works out in practice.
EC is being implemented against a background of high Employment Tribunal fees which many employees will not be able to pay and canny employers may wait to see if the employee will pay the fee before settling a case.
There is also concern over the impact of pausing of time limits for claims and how that may affect cases. If clients or advisers get the rules wrong then cases may not be allowed to proceed in the tribunal. This is a particular danger in cases which involve a number of claims with different time limits.
An interesting few months ahead!