One of the main changes is that employees now have to submit details of their dispute to ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) before they can look to issue a claim in an Employment Tribunal. ACAS will have a month, which can be extended by a further two weeks if required, to try and resolve the dispute without the need for litigation. During this one month early conciliation period the usual Tribunal time limits are paused.
If conciliation is refused by either party or if the process is not successful, the employee will then be able to present his or her claim. There is no obligation on either party to conciliate but it is hoped that this free service will mean a number of potential employment claims are settled before Tribunal proceedings which in turn will save employers time and money.
Given the above change, it is now extremely likely that employers will be contacted by ACAS rather than through the traditional Employment Tribunal Claim Form or an employee’s legal representative. Therefore, it is essential that your business is prepared with how to handle this new process. Below are 5 points that should be considered by your business when dealing with this new process:-
1. Ensure that managers/supervisors/partners of the business do not ignore any contact from ACAS. It is important that anyone within your business who is contacted by ACAS through the early conciliation scheme about an employment dispute understands the importance of dealing with the initial contact properly and promptly.
2. Give managers clear guidance on who will deal with early conciliation. It is extremely important that the individual who receives first contact from ACAS passes on the details of the dispute on to the individual(s) who would be responsible for managing any subsequent Tribunal claim. If your business is a large organisation it may well be that all workplace disputes are dealt with by your HR department if not it would be beneficial to have one or two individuals to deal with all early conciliation referrals.
3. Ensure that the individual who deals with the initial call from ACAS knows their responsibilities. An individual who knows about any dispute via contact from ACAS should not try and take matters into their own hands and attempt to resolve the issue themselves. Further, an employee who is seeking early conciliation should not be penalised in any way by the business or an employee who is aware of the dispute. The initial recipient of the call from ACAS should be reminded to keep the issue confidential.
4. Assess the merits of early conciliation in the case. The individual who would be responsible for managing any subsequent Tribunal claim should decide whether or not early conciliation is a good idea. Relevant factors to consider for individual cases are the likely strength and value of the claim, the potential legal costs of proceedings to a full tribunal hearing, the time involved of defending a claim brought, the ease with which the issue could be resolved and any damage to the business’ reputation that could result from Tribunal proceedings. If you have any queries or concerns in relation to an early conciliation brought against you or your business and require advice please do not hesitate to contact Jodie Hill who is a Solicitor in our Employment Department who will be able to assist you.
5. Finally, don’t delay in going back to ACAS with your answer. Once you have reviewed the complaint contact ACAS to let them know whether or not the business is willing to engage in early conciliation. At this point, you will be able to discuss the next steps with ACAS.
For Employment advice please contact Jodie Hill on 07850644426 or email@example.com and don’t forget to follow her on twitter for legal updates @milnersjodie