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ACAS Early Concilliation Launches

The new ACAS “Early Conciliation” (EC) scheme is now compulsory for almost all new potential tribunal claims. A worker cannot make a claim to an employment tribunal unless they have contacted ACAS first and obtained a certificate to confirm that Early Concilliation has been attempted. But the scheme relies on employers and employees being prepared to engage with ACAS to resolve the dispute – and there is no obligation on either side to do so. The process, along with fines for employers with employer fines introduced in April, marks the final stage in a series of government reforms aimed at reducing the number of claims taken to employment tribunals.

Which disputes are covered by Early Conciliation?

The Early Concilliation process applies to almost all claims that can be taken to employment tribunals, including unfair dismissal, unlawful discrimination, and disputes about wages and holiday pay.

Does it only apply to employees who have been dismissed?

No. Many claims can be made by employees who are still in work, including discrimination and disputes about wages and holiday pay.

Does the worker have to pay a fee for Early Conciliation?

No. The worker does not need to pay a fee to make an EC claim through ACAS.

If the claim cannot be settled through Early Conciliation, then the worker will need to decide whether to pursue the claim further through an employment tribunal and a fee would be payable at that time.

How will I know an employee has approached ACAS?

The process is designed to be very informal. Employees will complete an online or postal form, or even simply ‘phone ACAS, and ACAS will contact both the worker and the employer to see if conciliation can be agreed.

So the first an employer might hear about a dispute is when they get a call from ACAS.

Does an employee have to raise a grievance first?

No. An employee does not need to have raised a grievance before approaching ACAS – although they might have done so.

Should I agree to Early Conciliation?

Early conciliation could be a very quick, cost-effective and easy way of resolving disputes with workers or former workers. But workers might make claims they have no intention of taking to an employment tribunal – where there would be a fee to pay.

So each case will be different and it is important that employers take early advice.

Early conciliation – At a glance

Workers must contact ACAS first if they intend to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

They contact ACAS using a web or postal form or by telephone.

Both the worker and the employer must agree if conciliation is to take place.

ACAS has one month to attempt to resolve the dispute, which can be extended by a further 14 days.

Workers cannot make a tribunal claim until they have a Certificate from ACAS to confirm conciliation has been attempted.

Employer Tribunal Fines

The government has confirmed that employers face statutory fines if they defend claims at employment tribunals and lose. This came into force on 6th April 2014. Fines will be introduced alongside the Early Conciliation Scheme mentioned above.

The following bullet points give an idea of the possible fines;

  • Employers who fight tribunal claims and subsequently lose may be ordered to pay a fine to the government. This fine is in addition to compensation to the claimant.
  • Fines will be set at half the compensation awarded, with a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £5,000.
  • Fines can be reduced by 50% if paid within 21 days.Legal Q&A: E-cigarettes and employees