Early Conciliation yields positive results….
By Linda Powell Since May 2014 before a worker is allowed to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal s/he has to notify the Advisory and Conciliation Advisory Services (“Acas”) to obtain an Early Conciliation certificate before the claim can proceed. This provides Acas with the opportunity to attempt to resolve the employment dispute thereby reducing litigation and freeing up the employment tribunal system and saving employers a great deal of heartache and legal costs. Previously the conciliation service had been available on a voluntary basis. Acas has now released it’s figures from May 2014 to demonstrate how early conciliation is working. It clearly is having an impact on the level of new tribunal claims, which has delighted employers and business groups. Out of 37,000 cases that were conciliated through Acas since May 2014, 18% of the early conciliations resulted in the potential claim being withdrawn and a COT3 agreement being drafted to settle the claim. Of the claims that did not manage to settle through Early Conciliation, then 24% proceeded to Tribunal litigation. Although these figures are tentative, it is still worthy of note that 58% of claims have still not resulted in a Tribunal claim. This could mean that employers are confident about not settling claims with a view to assessing whether the employee will “put their money where their mouth is” and stump up the not inconsiderable Tribunal fees. Some employees may feel that it is useful to have this system in place so that they do not have to go through the stress and costs associated with litigating tribunal claims unnecessarily. The Court of Appeal has not yet delivered its judgment in the Tribunal fees’ challenge which is expected later on in the year. However it is anticipated that, for the time being at least, the Early Conciliation scheme is here to stay. These Early Conciliation figures provide continuing evidence of how the new Early Conciliation arrangements are developing as more cases are handled through the system. These statistics may only add further fuel to the Union and employee lobby groups’ arguments that Tribunal fees and Early Conciliation are having a substantial impact on access to justice for employees and that urgent reform is needed. Commentators have suggested, rather tongue in cheek, that it is staggering how employers have stopped discriminating and unfairly dismissing their employees literally overnight with the introduction of Tribunal fees.