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Tribunals and tribulations – is Early Conciliation working?

Christopher Saunders - DAS Law

  1. 05 February 2015
  2. Employment
  3. 0 comments
Handshake between businesspeople

On 6th May 2014, the landscape and legal process for submitting a claim to an employment tribunal was fundamentally altered with the introduction of the ACAS model of compulsory “Early Conciliation”. Despite the “compulsory” label being somewhat misleading, not least because the only obligation is to contact ACAS and there is no corresponding duty to partake in the actual process, the question at the end of the year is whether this radical shakeup has met its intended aim.

At first glance, the reasoning behind its implementation is simple: to promote and encourage the settlement of claims without recourse to the tribunal process. According to official statistics from ACAS, the service is receiving on average 1,600 calls per week.

Furthermore, Chief Executive Anne Sharp has advised: “We are receiving the number of notifications that we expected and are pleased that only 10% of employees and employers are turning down our offer to help them find a solution without the need to go to a tribunal.”

Our view is that the encouragement of early conciliation can only be viewed as a positive intervention. Its introduction has helped to provide a cost-effective framework and opportunity for an increased number of settlement and COT3 agreements to be reached between employers and employees. It comes as no surprise to learn that the various changes made by the government have achieved their aim, namely the resultant drop in employment tribunal claims.

The main reason for the decrease in claims which end up before a tribunal is undoubtedly down to the introduction of tribunal fees. Whether early conciliation plays a significant role in this is, however, yet to be determined; it is so far unclear as to whether claims are being settled earlier, or if wronged employees are simply dropping them due to the potential expense.

However, it is clear at this stage that the early conciliation model is off to a flying start, and we here at Law on the Web hope that the service will grow and develop to assist anyone who needs it.

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