Early Conciliation (EC) is currently voluntary but will become mandatory from 6 May 2014. EC has been designed to facilitate negotiation between employees and employers with a view to avoiding tribunal claims.
Some key aspects of EC for employers:
- Claimants will not be able to present an employment tribunal claim until they have completed EC.
- An ACAS EC officer will be appointed to facilitate negotiations between the parties.
- Initiating EC will ‘stop the clock’ on time limits for presenting tribunal claims and in some cases can extend the time available to present the claim.
- Employers can also initiate EC with an employee where they are concerned that a matter could proceed to tribunal. Where an employer initiates EC it will not stop the clock or extend the time limit. Where an employer has initiated EC it does not prevent the affected employee from starting EC themselves separately, to get the benefit of the extension in time limits.
- EC will be brought to an end where an employee or employer is either un-contactable or unwilling to engage in EC. The EC officer can also bring EC to an end if they do not think there are any reasonable prospects of success.
- Either party may appoint a representative to speak to ACAS and negotiate on their behalf.
EC’s predecessor, Pre-Claim Conciliation, enjoyed a high success rate in resolving potential claims. It remains to be seen if EC will further reduce the number of employment tribunal claims, which of course are already down substantially as a result of the introduction of tribunal fees.