ACAS launched its early conciliation service on the 6 April – as of the 6 May it became compulsory. Whether it dramatically reduces the number of claims issued in the Employment Tribunal remains to be seen, but it is certainly bound to have some impact.
Since its launch ACAS claims it has been contacted by approximately 4000 people enquiring about the service. Of a 1000 calls per week on average, some must surely result in resolution or settlement avoiding the need for Tribunal proceedings. Indeed, ACAS has indicated that the first case of early conciliation using the service was settled within 24 hours.
The process is relatively straightforward. Once ACAS receives a complaint from the individual it contacts their employer explaining the complaint and that the individual is willing to come to a settlement. The standard ACAS broking service then kicks in, if both parties are willing to compromise.
For employers with a strong HR team or legal advisors it will undoubtedly be welcome and may avoid the subsequent costs (not least in management time) of Tribunal proceedings. However, for those without such advisors the question must be whether they will be encouraged by ACAS to settle unmeritorious claims, simply to avoid the hassle factor and threat of legal proceedings. Certainly some advice as to the merits of the claim will be needed for sensible settlement decisions to be made.