From 6 May 2014 it has been mandatory for any person wanting to make an Employment Tribunal claim to first of all register this with ACAS for Early Conciliation.
Early statistics suggest that there has been a good take up of this scheme with over a 1000 people a week contacting ACAS about this since it’s launch in April.
Most employers will assume that the first involvement they will have Early Conciliation will be when the conciliator calls you up to say a claim has been registered with them by a disgruntled employee.
There is a different approach that can be taken to Early Conciliation. An employer can contact ACAS initially and start the process themselves. Perhaps if there is a redundancy situation or an unhappy employee, you may want to contact ACAS to try and resolve this before it becomes an even bigger problem. In doing this ACAS can start the Early Conciliation process and help you and the employee to resolve the problem.
For many employers a balance must be reached between avoiding costly, time consuming Employment Tribunal claims and wasting money agreeing a settlement in early Conciliation on an employee that had no intention of submitting a claim at all and exploited Early Conciliation to get something for nothing.
Employers are advised to take advice as soon as they become aware of issues with their staff. Having correctly drafted policies and contracts and ensuring all grievance and disciplinary issues are dealt with promptly, correctly and lawfully can save you time and money. Doing this will enable you to be clear from the outset whether there would be valid grounds for a claim and to work out what response is best to Early Conciliation.
Remember, while Early Conciliation is a mandatory process before the Tribunal stage, there is no obligation on either party to engage in settlement discussions once the process starts. Don’t feel compelled to agree to settle a claim just because the individual has gone to ACAS, always be sure to take advice and assess the whole situation first.
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Tom Bernard, Employment Solicitor