ACAS claim Early Conciliation is “The free, fast and less stressful alternative to an employment tribunal for resolving workplace disputes”.
From 6 May 2014 the Government will require potential claimants, who want to bring a claim before an employment Tribunal, an obligation to participate in an Early Conciliation (EC) process through ACAS otherwise they will lose their right to bring a claim altogether. While some claims are exempt, the majority will be subject to the new duty including claims for unfair dismissal, breach of contract, discrimination, unauthorised deductions from wages and breaches of the Working Time Regulations. EC provides an opportunity to settle workplace disputes without having to go to a Tribunal.
Before a potential claimant can lodge a Tribunal claim they must file an EC form at ACAS which will in turn offer them the opportunity to commence conciliation. If a potential claimant and respondent wish to participate ACAS will aim to resolve the dispute. If any point either party wish to withdraw from the process, ACAS will allow them to proceed straight to a Tribunal.
Claimants can refuse an invitation by ACAS to conciliate as long as they have filed their EC form and informed ACAS of their unwillingness to participate. If either party refuses to participate ACAS must issue an EC Certificate to that effect. That Certificate must then be produced by a prospective claimant when lodging their claim at a Tribunal. Although the new process is not particularly onerous, the relevant Certificate must be presented to a Tribunal before a claim can be lodged. In effect this will stop the clock on any limitation period for potentially up to six weeks or possibly longer.
If a resolution is not reached within one calendar month after an EC form has been submitted (and no extension is granted) ACAS must issue an EC Certificate.