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Fees continue to drive tribunal trends

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The latest statistics released today by ACAS reveal the impact that Tribunal fees continue to have on how workplace disputes are settled, says a leading employment lawyer. Irwin Mitchell Comments On First Year EC Statistics.

ACAS has announced that in the first year of Early Conciliation (EC), 83,000 EC cases were registered between April 2014 and March 2015.It also revealed that three out of four employees and employers agreed to try EC in its first year of operation. Introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, the early conciliation scheme made it compulsory for employees wishing to lodge a Tribunal claim to first notify ACAS. At this point both parties are given the option of resolving the dispute through an ACAS conciliator.

Early conciliation started in April 2014 and from 6 May 2014, the requirement to notify ACAS became compulsory.

If either side does not wish to conciliate after the Claimant has contacted ACAS about the complaint, ACAS will issue a conciliation certificate. The certificate will also be issued if no agreement can be reached after a month, subject to some limited abilities to extend time. Without this certificate, a claim will not be accepted by a Tribunal.ACAS has also reported that out of the EC notifications received between April and December, almost two thirds (63 percent) did not proceed to a tribunal claim. A further 15 percent resulted in a formal settlement (COT3) and 22 percent progressed to a tribunal claim. Interestingly, more than half (51 percent) of the 22 percent of cases that progressed to a tribunal claim have now been resolved by ACAS.

Glenn Hayes, an employment partner at national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, said: “The introduction of Tribunal fees appears to be driving the key trends underlying these statistics, particularly the high number of claims not proceeding to issue stage.  Employers recognise that claimants have nothing to lose by going to EC and many employers are reluctant to settle at EC stage, preferring to wait and see if claimants 'put their money where their mouth is'. The fact that a high number of claims settle later seems to support the view that businesses are waiting to see what the employee does next after lodging the EC.

“The statistics also show that there is an appetite for resolution. As parties move towards a Tribunal, it can often focus both an employer’s and employee’s mind to settlement following the process of disclosure, after disclosure of witness statements, before payment of the hearing fee, or at the door steps to the Tribunal.  Whilst these figures do not tell us when cases settled throughout that process or why, it is clear that ACAS continues to play an influential role throughout the process.”

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