(Updated October 2020). If an employee or ex-employee has a potential Employment Tribunal claim, from May 2014 they are required to contact Acas first, who will then contact their employer.
There have been a lot of changes to the Employment Tribunal system in the last 2 years and this is the latest one, which may be significant for employers.
You can read full details about the Employment Tribunal system (in England and Wales) here, and in our article here we look at what you should do if you are contacted by Acas.
What is pre-conciliation?
From 6th May 2014, an employee, before being able to submit a claim to an employment tribunal, must contact Acas with a view to undertaking early conciliation with their employer and Acas. They do this by completing an EC form or by telephoning Acas.
An Early Conciliation Support Officer (ECSO) then makes contact with the individual. The ECSO explains the early conciliation process and takes some details from the individual and checks if they wish to proceed with conciliation.
If an individual does not wish to proceed with early conciliation then Acas will not contact the employer. If an individual does want to proceed with early conciliation then the information will be sent to a Conciliation Officer (CO) who will contact the employer about the potential claim.
The purpose of early conciliation is to prevent a workplace dispute, that may be able to be resolved quickly, from escalating into costly and time-consuming Employment Tribunal proceedings.
The Acas Conciliation Officer will have one calendar month to try to find a settlement between the parties. This period may be extended once, by up to 14 days, if the CO believes settlement may be imminent. In September 2020, the Government announced that in order to boost capacity in the tribunal system (because of the Coronavirus pandemic), the standard period for pre-claim conciliation by Acas, between the employer and employee, would be extended to 6 weeks for all cases, from 1st December 2020 (rather than the standard 1 month with the possibility to extend it by 2 weeks).
Neither party, though, is obliged to participate in early conciliation.