Since May 2014 an employee or ex-employee (or a worker who is eligible to make a claim) who has a potential Employment Tribunal claim against their Employer are required to contact Acas first, who will then contact their employer, to see if there is an opportunity to resolve the dispute without the need to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal. This is known as conciliation.
Acas published statistics in early January 2015 of their figures for the first 6 months of Conciliation, from April – September 2014 which make interesting reading (if you’re into that sort of thing).
The statistics looked at the amount of employees and employers taking up the offer of conciliation and the proportion of cases that were settled or went onto an Employment Tribunal claim.
The notifications that Acas received
- 36,000 from Employees during the period (around 1,600 per week) – some were notifications from a ‘group of employees’ (complaining about the same issue) so in total 44,390 individual employees notified Acas
- 1,242 from Employers during the period
- Only 10% of employees rejected conciliation and only 10% of employers rejected conciliation (once the employee had agreed to try conciliation)
The first indication of conciliation outcomes
Because the outcome of cases at conciliation takes time, only figures from April – June 2014 had all reached a final conclusion by September. The outcome of these 17,000 cases were:
- 58% of cases did not proceed to a Tribunal claim (this figure is provisional as a small number of these cases may yet progress to a Tribunal or be settled by Acas).*
- 18% of cases had a COT3 settlement (so were settled by the Employer and employee).
- 24% of cases (4,198) progressed to a Tribunal Claim.**
* Acas point out that not all settlements are formalised into a COT3 document, as some employees decide not to take the matter further after having initial discussions with the Conciliator; or agreement is reached between the employer and employee via conciliation but does not have a formal COT3 document. Therefore the ‘did not proceed to Tribunal’ statistics will include these instances where a COT3 is not given.
** Conciliation is available up until the day of a case being heard by an Employment Tribunal. By the end of October of the 4,198 cases that were proceeding to Tribunal, 989 of these had been settled by Acas conciliators much later on in the process.
What is pre-conciliation?
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 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.
Neither party, though, is obliged to participate in early conciliation.
Acas will issue the claimant with an ‘early conciliation certificate’ where conciliation is not successful, or does not happen, or it is not possible to contact the parties (as long as the individual has contacted Acas initially), which means they can proceed to an Employment Tribunal claim. The certificate will include a unique reference number that is needed to pursue a claim.
If a Settlement is successful through Acas a legal document known as a COT3 will be issued where the parties want this (although in some case the agreement reached in conciliation will be implemented by the Employer without the need for a formal COT3)
Employers also can initiate early conciliation with Acas (rather than the individual) although this will be more unusual.
What does early conciliation mean for Employers? All the details are in our post here.
In February 2015 it was reported that 9 out of 10 Acas-mediated settlements were paid in full by the Employer without needing to resort to enforcement procedures (in comparison to only 53% of claims granted by employment tribunal that were paid without enforcement).
In March 2015 it was reported that of the 60,000 cases Acas Early Conciliation deal with between 6th April and 31st December 2014, more than 2,000 requests were related to calculating holiday pay because of recent case law in this are – more details here.
Acas will continue to look at the impact of the Early Conciliation arrangements as more cases go through the system and we’ll keep you updated!
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues, or a Contractor/Freelancer/Employee with a complicated employment related problem, then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.