Early Conciliation is a new service that will be introduced from April 2014. It will mean that anybody who wants to lodge an employment tribunal claim will have to notify Acas first who will then have up to a month to attempt to resolve the dispute.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills asked Acas to provide Early Conciliation due to the success of a similar voluntary Acas service called Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC). Acas Chair Ed Sweeney said: “In 2011/12 our voluntary Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC) service helped resolve over 21,000 workplace disputes saving employers and employees the time, stress and expense of preparing for and attending a tribunal. “Early Conciliation will give us the chance to help even more people resolve their disputes early. Our current PCC service is free to use for both employers and employees and Early Conciliation will be too. At Acas our advice is always that it is better to resolve disputes at the earliest possible stage, ideally in the workplace itself.” In 2011/12 the number of PCC cases that Acas dealt with that did not go on to become an employment tribunal claim increased to 78 per cent from 74 per cent in the previous year.
Independent research into PCC among employers and employees confirms its success. When staff, management time and legal costs are factored in employers save on average £2,700 compared to resolving a dispute once an employment tribunal claim has been made. Ed added: “Proactive conciliation that is promptly and appropriately provided is critical to the success of early conciliation. That’s why it is important that the expertise of our conciliators is recognised when setting the framework for the service. It is their careful judgement and skilful intervention that will lead to the early resolution of more disputes. He concluded: “The introduction of the new service means significant changes for our experienced conciliators and systems and processes that support them. We are preparing now to ensure that we are ready to provide a quality early conciliation service from April 2014.”