Compulsory Conciliation: It hasn’t had much of a fanfare but it’s big and it’s coming to a Tribunal near you!
Later this year the Government is introducing the requirement for compulsory Early Conciliation in employment disputes, in an effort to get employment claims settled before they clutter up the Employment Tribunals. The proposed scheme is contained within the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (which is now in the House of Lords) and provides that prospective claimants (subject to a limited number of exceptions) won’t be able to bring a claim before the Employment Tribunal without first going through a formal Compulsory Conciliation process.
Note to any secret agents out there: if you happen to be bringing a claim against the Security Service, you are not required to engage in the Compulsory Conciliation process.
Whilst the precise mechanism of the conciliation requirement is currently under consultation, it is proposed that there will be an ‘Early Conciliation’ form which a prospective claimant will have to submit to Acas. The form will require minimal information such as the name and contact details of both the claimant and the anticipated respondent. Once such a form is received by Acas, this will “stop the clock” on the time limit within which a claimant has to submit a claim before the Tribunal. A conciliation officer will then explore the possibility of a resolution to the issues arising over a time period of about a month. Whether or not a settlement is reached, the conciliation officer will issue a certificate confirming that the conciliation requirement has been complied with. If a settlement is not reached, once the conciliation officer has issued the certificate that the process has been completed (albeit unsuccessfully), the balance of the Claimant’s time limit for bringing a claim before the Employment Tribunal will then start to run again (“start the clock”).
As ever, we will dutifully keep you updated on the development of the Early Conciliation scheme and in the meantime, we are sharpening our pencils for disputes on the ‘stop the clock’ regime with the ghost of the statutory grievance and disciplinary procedures lurking in the shadows.
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