How the new employment tribunal rules will affect you
From 6 April new rules come into force designed to reduce the number of claims taken to employment tribunals. Rather than taking a case against your employer straight to tribunal, you will have to notify Acas first. The notification to Acas is voluntary for a month, but becomes mandatory from 6 May. Here's a guide to the changes.
What is Acas?
The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service provides information, advice, training, conciliation and other services for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems.
Up to now Acas was notified of a claim only once tribunal proceedings were issued. Now, however, employees will be expected to contact Acas before a tribunal claims is lodged. It is only after the claim has been referred to Acas and a "conciliation certificate" has been issued that you will then be free to lodge your claim.
How does the new process work?
Before you can make a tribunal claim, you need to notify Acas and provide it with initial basic details, including your contact information. Acas has indicated the quickest way to do this is via its website at . The notification will need to be made within the normal time limit for bringing a claim: three months less one day for routine unfair dismissal cases.
Acas will then attempt to telephone you by the end of the following working day to check the information provided, find out what the claim is about and explain the early conciliation process. At some point after this you will receive a call from an Acas conciliator to obtain consent to approach your employer to try to settle the case.
If you do not give consent, or it is not possible to make contact with your employer, or if your employer does not wish to engage in the process, the case will be closed and an early conciliation certificate will be issued. You will then be free to lodge your claim.
After you initially contact Acas, the time limit for making a claim to the tribunal is "paused" for up to one calendar month, plus a further 14 days if more time is needed for conciliation. This is to allow a sufficient period to try to resolve the dispute, assuming all parties wish to do so. If the case is not settled by this time, Acas will bring the early conciliation to a close and issue a formal certificate to this effect, and you can then issue your claim.
The time limit will start to run again once you receive the certificate that early conciliation has finished, and you will have at least one month from this time in which to lodge your claim.
Does early conciliation change anything?
Arguably, the voluntary nature of the full process means there is no real change at all, save for the fact that it is mandatory to contact Acas before you can lodge your claim.
Acas suggests early conciliation will enable parties to resolve their differences at the outset and save the costs, not to mention the stress, of a tribunal claim. This may be the case, but four to six weeks is not long to settle the more complex cases. Some employers may also be reluctant settle without knowing first if the employee is actually prepared to issue a claim.
Do you think early conciliation via Acas is a good idea? What experience have you had in settling a dispute with your employer at the termination of your employment?
is an employment solicitor at Landau Zeffertt Weir Solicitors. You can follow him on .