When: Since 6th May 2014
What: ACAS is an organisation that provides information, advice, training, conciliation and other services for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems.
From 6 May 2014 it has been compulsory for prospective claimants to first obtain an early conciliation certificate from ACAS before filing a claim at the Employment Tribunal.
The process for obtaining a Conciliation Certificate;
The process entails the following steps:
- The claimant (not their legal representative) must contact ACAS and inform ACAS of the name and address of the intended respondent to the claim.
- ACAS will contact the claimant (or their nominated legal representative) and see whether they wish to engage in conciliation to try to resolve the dispute.
- If the claimant confirms it is their intention to do so, ACAS will then also contact the proposed respondent to see if they too are willing to engage in conciliation.
- If both parties are willing to resolve the dispute by way of the early conciliation through ACAS, the early conciliation process continues for one month. It may be possible to extend the process for a further two weeks, brining the conciliation process to the total of six weeks.
- If no settlement has been reached by the end of that time period (be it one month or six weeks), then an early conciliation certificate is issued to the claimant, who can then bring an Employment Tribunal claim.
- If either party at any point during the early conciliation period decides they are no longer willing to participate (or continue to participate) in the early conciliation process, then that process comes to an end and an early conciliation certificate is issued to the claimant.
- Once the Claimant obtains the certificate, she/ he can proceed with bringing their claim in the Employment Tribunal.
If, on the other hand, during the one month (or six week) early conciliation period, the parties reach a settlement of the dispute, then that settlement will be formalised and recorded in a specific form and the settlement will be legally binding on both parties.
The effect of the early conciliation process on the time limit
Both employees and employers must bear in mind the effect that the early conciliation process has on the time limit in which a claimant has to bring their Employment Tribunal claim.
Most Tribunal claims have to be filed within three months of a particular event i.e. date of dismissal. To enable the parties to have time to engage in early conciliation, that time limit is paused while the early conciliation process is in progress.
When the claimant contacts ACAS to begin the early conciliation process, this effectively pauses the time limit for bringing a Tribunal claim. This time limit only begins to run again when the early conciliation process has ended.
If a settlement is not reached between the parties and early conciliation ends and the time limit clock starts to tick again, then the claimant will usually have one month to lodge the claim.
Points to note:
- If you are having issues at work, you should seek independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity to discuss your options.
- You will need to apply for an early conciliation certificate under the new requirements. Although, we can help you put your application together.
- Please be aware of the timeframes of bringing a claim to the tribunal as this could seriously affect your claim.
If you have any questions about the new process, or need any assistance in completing the ACAS form to obtain your early conciliation certificate, please do not hesitate to contact us.