The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 included provision for a new scheme of compulsory pre-claim conciliation via ACAS.
The scheme took effect from 6 April 2014, but only became compulsory from 6 May 2014. It applies to all ‘relevant proceedings’, which in effect means all the mainstream employment claims.
Under the new four-stage procedure, individuals who wish to pursue a claim against their employer must first lodge certain ‘prescribed information’ with ACAS, using a prescribed form. The information is then supplied to a conciliation officer, who is required to make attempts with both parties to promote a settlement within the ‘prescribed period’ (one calendar month, subject to a two-week extension if the parties agree).
There is no charge for commencing the pre-claim conciliation process. Neither the claimant nor the employer is obliged to actively participate in the conciliation process and there are no penalties for failing to do so.
If settlement is not achieved, a certificate is issued by the conciliation officer to the individual, who must quote the unique certificate number on their tribunal application if they subsequently decide to pursue a claim.
During the conciliation period and until the conciliation certificate is issued, the time limit for pursuing the relevant tribunal claim is effectively suspended. If necessary, the time limit will be further extended to allow for a minimum period of one month from the date the certificate is issued to submit a claim.
Early indications from ACAS suggest that the new scheme is popular, with around four thousand people contacting them in the period from its launch on 6 April 2014 to 6 May 2014. A reported 98% decided to try the service and the first case settled within 24 hours.
Further information on the new scheme is available on the ACAS website.