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Earlier this month, Acas Early Conciliation became mandatory for ex-employees (and current employees) who are considering bringing Tribunal claims against their employers. Here are some key points, and the answers to the questions employers are likely to be asked. There are also practical tips, such as, how to register your key contact person with Acas to avoid all your managers receiving requests from Acas for early conciliation! Lisa Jinks from Greenwoods Solicitors LLP reports.
Acas has contacted us asking if we wish to engage in Early Conciliation (EC) with our employee/ex-employee – what do we do now?
This indicates that (a) the employee/ex-employee is considering lodging a Tribunal Claim but (b) is first willing to enter into negotiations to settle their claim.
There is no obligation upon you (the employer) to engage in EC. If you decide that it’s not in your interests to do so, there are no consequences/penalties imposed should the matter proceed to a Tribunal hearing.
If you do wish to conciliate, you should confirm this to Acas who will facilitate the conciliation process.
Do we have to pay a fee for engaging in Early Conciliation?
There is no fee payable by either party to engage in EC.
Is it in our interests to conciliate?
This may be difficult to assess as an employee is under no obligation to provide details of their complaint(s) when requesting EC.
Tactically, you may want to call the employee’s ‘bluff’ and see if they’ll pay the fee to issue Tribunal proceedings (currently £250 for unfair dismissal claims). However, it may be worthwhile engaging in EC if an employee has a potentially strong claim. As such, it would be prudent to seek legal advice on the merits of an employee’s claim before you decide whether or not to participate in EC.
Notification of Early Conciliation – who will be contacted?
Any person at your organisation could be contacted in respect of a request for EC. However, to ensure all requests go to the same person, you can nominate a specific individual at your organisation for Acas to contact by emailing ECcontactslist@acas.org.uk
We’ve received a claim form from an employee – why were we not contacted about Early Conciliation?
If this happens, it is likely that Acas didn’t obtain the consent of the employee to contact you. This indicates that the employee didn’t want to engage in EC. Alternatively, it could mean that Acas wasn’t able to contact the employee to discuss the request.
Has the employee’s claim been brought in time?
To calculate whether a claim is in time, you will need a copy of the EC Certificate which has been issued to the employee by Acas. (The EC Certificate confirms that the EC process has concluded.)
If you were not consulted during the EC procedure, you won’t have been provided with a copy of the Certificate. In those circumstances, it will be necessary to obtain a copy for your records from Acas. If there are any doubts as to whether the employee’s claim is made in time, it is advisable to take legal advice as the new time limit provisions can be quite tricky.
EC was successful! What do we do now?
An Acas COT3 Agreement will be used to record the agreement reached between the parties. Legal advice should again be sought if there are concerns about the terms of the agreement you are entering into.
Please note that as this is only a brief overview of the new rules you are advised to take legal advice on any particular situation. Greenwoods Solicitors LLP would be pleased to help. Call 01733 887700 and ask for a member of Greenwoods’ Employment team.