Today is the first working day after ACAS early conciliation came into being. For the next month it will be optional before it becomes mandatory on 5th May 2014. The new ACAS early conciliation website is here.
Before a Claimant presents an Employment Tribunal Claim for relevant proceedings, the prospective Claimant must provide information to ACAS on a prescribed form about the matter. The form has also now been published and can be found here. The relevant proceedings are those set out in s18(1) of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 but includes the most common claims like unfair dismissal, unlawful deductions from wages and discrimination claims.
Once ACAS has received the information on the form they will send this to a conciliation officer who will for a period of up to one month endeavour to promote a settlement between the named parties, which is called early conciliation. If at the end of that period, no settlement has been reached or before then the conciliation officer concludes that a settlement is not possible, a certificate to that effect shall be issued and sent to the Claimant (and the prospective Respondent if ACAS has had contact with them). There is a possibility provided both sides consent that the one month period can be extended by another 14 days. Only one extension is possible. The Claimant will need the certificate and the number when they present their Tribunal claim as without this the claim will be rejected after 5th May 2014. There are some exceptions to the rules around early conciliation but the rules are complex.
One of the nuances of the new rules is the impact on time for a claim. Most claims have a limitation period of three months. If the early conciliation rules apply, then the period beginning with the day the complainant complies with the early conciliation rules (Day A) and ending with the day on which the complainant receives the certificate (Day B) do not count towards the time limit. However, there is another complexity where if the ordinary time limit would expire between A and one month after B then the time limit will expire one month after B. Therefore some Claimants will get more time to present a complaint but as the rules are complex there is bound to be additional litigation on the time limits point and compliance with the system.
Another late amendment (only last week) was the change from the requirement to name only one Respondent on the form to the current position. This is now that the Claimant must complete a separate form for each Respondent or notify ACAS over the phone of the additional identities of the Respondents. There was also an oversight in the missing off of the extension of time point for certain claims which has now been rectified.