Acas relaxes policy on conciliation beyond initial fixed period
From 1 April, Acas will continue to conciliate even after the fixed conciliation period contained in Schedule 1 of the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004 has expired, if the claim has a reasonable prospect of settlement.
Acas has a duty to attempt to conciliate in cases within its remit, if requested to do so. But, that duty generally only applies for an initial fixed conciliation period of 7 or 13 weeks, depending on the claim, as set out in Schedule 1 of the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004. After the fixed period is over, Acas could still exercise a statutory power to conciliate; but until recently they have used that power sparingly having taken the view that conciliation outside the prescribed periods should only be made available in exceptional circumstances.
Following the findings of the Gibbons review, which concluded that fixed conciliation periods had not led to more or earlier resolution of disputes, the Government is proposing the abolition of such restrictions in the current Employment Bill, which is expected to take effect from April 2009.
In the meantime, Acas has decided that in all cases live at 1 April 2008 and those received by Acas on or after that date, Acas conciliators will be able to exercise the power to conciliate after the end of any fixed period where a party requests it or, alternatively, where the Acas conciliator considers that there is a reasonable prospect that it may assist in resolving the case without the need for determination by a Tribunal.