New Rules to Promote Settlement of Employment Claims
From 6th April 2014 prospective claimants will have to contact ACAS and allow them to promote settlement before being permitted to lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunal. Whilst parties will not be forced to engage in conciliation, they will have to wait until the process has been exhausted before going any further, giving ACAS the opportunity to explore the possibility of settlement.
The normal conciliation period will be one calendar month, but an ACAS officer can extend this period by a further 14 days if he or she believes that there are realistic prospects of a settlement and both parties agree to the extension. However, the ACAS officer could also cut short the conciliation period if he or she believes there are no real prospects of a settlement being reached.
If this process does not result in settlement, the claimant will be issued with an early conciliation certificate containing a unique reference number. The claimant will not be able to lodge a tribunal claim without a valid reference number.
The introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal in July last year, resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of claims being presented. Anecdotally it would appear that the fees regime has made low value or "woolly" claims less likely to occur.