The ACAS process
Participation in the early conciliation process with ACAS is required by section 18A Employment Tribunals Act 1996 and The Employment Tribunals Act 1996 (Application of Conciliation Provisions) Order 2014. Before most claims can be issued a prospective claimant must contact ACAS. Once a claimant has contacted ACAS this has the effect of extending the time limit to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
The statutory deadline to bring most Employment claims is 3 months less one day from the date of dismissal or in cases of discrimination the last act of discriminatory treatment.
However, once the claimant has contacted ACAS to engage in the early conciliation process this effectively “stops the clock” on the time limit. Once the early conciliation has come to an end the deadline to bring a claim will be extended. Somewhat confusingly, there are two ways in which time can be extended as part of the ACAS process which are set out in section 207B Employment Rights Act 1996.
It is essential that any prospective claimant ensures that they issue their claim well before the deadline and if they have any doubt as to the calculation of the extended deadline to bring a claim they should issue at the earliest opportunity in order to protect their position. Claims issued after the deadline will only be permitted by Employment Tribunal in very limited circumstances.
Benefits of the process
The ACAS Early Conciliation process can be useful in helping parties to reach an agreement before a claim is issued which can save the often considerable costs and time in bringing an Employment Tribunal claim. The key features of the service are that it is:
- Independent – ACAS conciliators are independent and therefore where tensions may be running high in a dispute between an employee and an employer it can be helpful to involve an independent person to liaise with each side.
- Free – There is no cost to use the service and therefore the parties can benefit from an using an experienced conciliation service without having to worry about the cost.
- Gives an early indication of the other party’s position – Exploring whether the other party is interested in settlement can give an early indication as to their approach and strategy for an Employment Tribunal claim.
- Experienced – The role of ACAS conciliators’ is to try and find ways to reach a middle ground for parties. Whilst they cannot give legal advice, often they can provide useful practical guidance for the parties, particularly where a party has unrealistic expectations.
The ACAS Pre-Conciliation process involves the following stages:
- Stage 1 – Contact
Contact ACAS online or over the telephone to provide the proscribed information.
- Stage 2 – Negotiation process
A conciliator will then be appointed who will liaise with the parties to try to facilitate a settlement. Usually the conciliation period lasts for one month and anything discussed with ACAS will not be admissible in any subsequent Employment Tribunal proceedings.
- Stage 3 – ACAS Certificate Issued
After the period of early conciliation comes to an end, a certificate will be issued. The time limit to bring a claim must be carefully complied with.
Steps after conciliation
Once an Early Conciliation Certificate has been issued it is possible to issue a claim. Please see our pages on Forms ET1 and ET3 for further information on the steps for issuing and defending a claim.
After a claim has been issued ACAS can remain involved in conciliation between the parties in order to reach a settlement. This can be an efficient way of settling a claim as ACAS notifies the Employment Tribunal and then proceedings are automatically withdrawn. Although it can limit the scope of any wider agreement, the parties may wish to include in settlement terms.