Expected now to come into force in 2014, this proposal will require all claimants to submit details of their claim to ACAS before presenting it to the tribunal. If early conciliation is taken up by the parties, ACAS will offer early conciliation services for a month (which ACAS will be able to extend by a further two week period if the parties agree and settlement appears likely). If the parties enter into early conciliation this will “stop the clock” on the limitation period to present the claim to the tribunal. If conciliation is unsuccessful the claimant will have the time spent conciliating added to the standard time limit to present their claim to the tribunal.
The general feeling is that this will not have much of an impact unless employers are desperate to keep matters out of the public tribunal forum or if employees are desperate for a settlement payment. Most employers, it is thought, will be happy to wait to see if the claimant is serious about the claim by waiting to see if they pay the tribunal fees before considering settlement. Some claimants may also want to let the tribunal proceedings run their course a little further. Only after a defence has been submitted and disclosure has taken place will some claimants begin to understand the merits and strengths (or lack of them) of their claim.
For further information, help or advice please contact our Employment Team on 0191 211 7777 or email [email protected].