The new requirements for Conciliation become operational from April 2014, and then they will be mandatory from May. There could also be a deluge of requests from employees once the new Flexible Working rights are introduced from June 2014.
As part of the government’s drive to reduce the burden on the Tribunal system, there will now be a duty on the parties to attempt early conciliation with ACAS before a claim can be issued in an Employment Tribunal. A four-stage process is being introduced next month involving:
1. The employee sending the required information of the dispute to ACAS
2. ACAS forwarding the information to a Conciliator
3. The Conciliator contacting the employer and trying to broker a settlement between the employer and employee for a conciliation period, probably a month
4. If unsuccessful, ACAS certificating this and advising that a claim can be brought.
If you receive communications from ACAS, this is the first stage before and employee brings a Tribunal claim. There is absolutely no obligation on an employer to settle a claim though and each employer will have its own views on whether settlement is a good option or not. However, employers would be well advised to try to engage in the conciliation process because from April 2014, Tribunals have the power to make employers who lose Tribunal claims pay up to £5,000 if there are aggravating features (although what these could be have not yet been defined) to the case.