Given the excessive workload of our Employment Tribunals right now, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we have seen a recent decision to extend Acas’ powers to settle employment disputes before employees can submit a valid claim.
Avoiding the Employment Tribunal
Over the years, there have been various attempts made to reduce the number of claims filed with our Employment Tribunals, often with a view to more effectively resolving disputes at an early stage. We have seen compulsory disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures, the ultimately unsuccessful introduction of Employment Tribunal fees and, more recently, the requirement in almost all cases for the prospective claimant to go through the Acas early conciliation process before they are allowed to submit an ET claim form.
At its simplest, the Acas early conciliation process requires the prospective claimant to notify Acas of their intention to submit a claim to the ET. In turn, if asked to do so, an Acas conciliator will endeavour to contact the relevant employer, with a view to seeing whether the dispute can be resolved by negotiation and agreement.
Until recently, a fixed period of only four weeks has been permitted for the conciliation process. However, there has been a discretion to extend the conciliation period by a further two weeks if the parties are close to doing a deal. Given the worryingly high number of ET claims being filed right now, it’s unsurprising that, with effect from 1st December 2020, the standard conciliation period has been extended to 6 weeks in all cases.
Of course, this change won’t make much of a difference in those cases where either employer or employee (or both) are implacably opposed to settlement. However, in more finely balanced cases, an increased opportunity for the parties to ‘do a deal’ and avoid protracted and expensive litigation is undoubtedly a good thing.
Need a hand with negotiations?
If you are involved in a negotiation through Acas and need some professional guidance and support, please get in touch.