Your Questions Answered
You may have heard on the news or the business grapevine about the introduction of Early Conciliation, which is the government’s latest attempt at resolving employment disputes and reducing claims in the Employment Tribunal.
If you have not heard about early conciliation don’t worry it only came into effect on the 6th May 2014 and you have come to the right place to for a run-down of the key things you need to know as an Employer.
What is Early Conciliation?
Early conciliation is a new step in the Employment Tribunal process which employees are required to undertake before they can submit their claim form.
What happens now is that anyone who wants to make a claim must submit information to ACAS first, usually via an online form. You can find a copy of the information that must be sent to ACAS by clicking here
What does it mean for me as an employer?
It means that you may receive a telephone call from an ACAS officer advising you that one of your employees is intending to pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal. You will then have the opportunity to consider whether you want to try to reach a settlement with the employee.
Do I have to try to settle with the employee?
There is no obligation upon you to try to reach a settlement with the employee. You may however want to consider your options and the potential risk if the employee follows through with their claim.
Would you advise that I try to settle or wait and see if they put their claim in?
There are benefits to reaching an early settlement with an employee, such as avoiding the time and potential cost of defending the claim.
Even if the claim does not have any merit you may consider that on a commercial, purely cost basis, it is cheaper (time and money wise) to pay them a small amount to ‘go away’ than the time involved in defending it.
On the other hand now that most people have to pay a fee of either £160-£250 to start their claim you may want to wait to see if they are prepared to put the money behind their claim.
Will I know the full details of their claim when ACAS contact me?
Unfortunately you may not have all of the information about the allegations or details of claim as there is only a requirement for the employee to state what claims they are making to the ACAS officer.
The amount of information you receive will depend upon what the employee tells the ACAS officer and how good the ACAS officer is at extracting the details from the employee.
If you are considering settlement you can always ask the ACAS officer questions or for information to be obtained from the employee.
I have heard that Early Conciliation may affect the time limit that an employee has to send their claim to the Employment Tribunal?
When an employee contacts ACAS their time limit of 3 months is effectively paused whilst the conciliation process takes place.
With the way that the time limits are to be extended under the Early Conciliation scheme there is massive potential for confusion which will undoubtedly lead to further disputes in the Employment Tribunal.
As an employer you should be aware that there is scope to receive notification of a claim from the Employment Tribunal after the 3 month period and if you are in any doubt as to whether the claim is within time or not you should seek advice, as this may be a potential line of defence to have the claim dismissed.
Will my discussions with the ACAS officer become known to the Employment Tribunal?
The discussions that take place with the ACAS officer will not be disclosed to the Employment Tribunal and remain confidential.
Can I ask ACAS to help resolve an employee issue?
You are able to request help and assistance from ACAS if you think that an issue with an employee may result in them making a claim to the Employment Tribunal.
There is no form to fill in online and no legal requirement for you as an employer to contact ACAS.
If however you would like their assistance you can ring them on 0300 123 1122.
Alternatively you may wish to consider whether mediation is appropriate. I am a trained mediator and would be happy to discuss this option with you. Contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or 01983 897003.
When issues arise with employees it can be time consuming, stressful and ultimately takes you away from working on your business.
With the help of Real Employment Law Advice you will have more time, less stress and I guarantee that I will help you improve your business performance.
I offer ongoing support for you as your ‘virtual HR department’, taking care of the personnel issues as well as legal compliance.