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New ‘early conciliation’ service from ACAS to be launched in 2014

There have been several changes to the Employment Tribunal processes this year, with important changes at the end of July, which we highlighted here.

The ‘Early Conciliation’ service will be another important change to the way people access the Employment Tribunal system. It will mean that anyone who wants to lodge an employment tribunal claim will have to notify ACAS first and will have up to a month to attempt to resolve the dispute with their Employer (before lodging the claim) with ACAS’s help. If ACAS can’t resolve the matter in this period then their services will remain available right up until the case is heard by an Employment Tribunal.

BIS (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) asked ACAS to provide this new service due to the success of a similar voluntary ACAS service called Pre-Claim Conciliation (PCC).

A study published in July 2013 about the PCC showed positive results with employers and employees benefiting from early intervention into workplace disputes. The PCC uses Early Conciliation Support Officers to run their mediation services. The same type of officers (called ECSO’s) will be used for the new service.

Highlights of the study included:

  • 9/10 employers who had used PCC said they would use it again

  • Two thirds of employees would advise a friend or relative to use PC if they were in a similar situation

  • 8/10 users said ACAS was important in helping to resolve their dispute

  • Users said the PCC was cheaper, easier or more convenient and less traumatic or stressful, and resolved their issue more quickly than submitting an employment tribunal claim

ACAS said that in 2012/13 the PCC service helped resolve over 22,000 workplace disputes and that “we know from independent research into PCC that when staff, management time and legal costs are factored in, employers save on average £2,700 compared to resolving a dispute once an Employment Tribunal claim has been made.”

ACAS added:

“Our role is to help find a solution that both parties find acceptable instead of going to a tribunal hearing. We don’t impose solutions, but try to help you settle your differences on your own terms. This process is known as conciliation. It’s essentially the same process as mediation, but conciliation is the term that tends to be used if an employee is making a specific complaint against their employer.”

The current PCC service is, and the Early Conciliation service will be, free to use. ACAS has a legal duty to offer free conciliation where a complaint about employment rights has been made to an Employment Tribunal, and a power to provide conciliation where a claim could be made, but hasn’t yet been so.

The current and new service will be independent, as ACAS are not part of the Employment Tribunal Service. The service doesn’t delay the tribunal process, nor can it be used as evidence at a tribunal hearing, as it’s completely confidential.

The Early Conciliation Support Officers make initial contact with people making a claim and gather information that is then passed onto ACAS conciliators. A study into these Officers in 3 regional offices found that:

  • 9/10 claimants felt that ECSO’s were good at explaining the PCC process

  • 7/10 said their ECSO was very important in making their decision to take part in PCC

Currently, the pre-claim conciliation services can be requested by calling the Acas helpline on 08457 47 47 47, and more details of the service are here. More details about ACAS conciliation are here.

If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to us at The HR Kiosk (click here) – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – 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.

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