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Changes introduced to the ACAS early conciliation process from 1 December 2020

1st December 2020

Prior to any claim being brought in the Employment Tribunal, a prospective claimant is required to notify ACAS of the potential claim. Following this notification and with the claimant’s agreement, ACAS will contact the potential respondent to determine whether they wish to conciliate the matter.

Prior to 1 December 2020, if the respondent agreed to conciliate, the parties had one-month to negotiate with ACAS. This conciliation period could be extended by two weeks if the parties and the ACAS early conciliation officer agreed that additional time was required to try to settle the potential claim prior to Employment Tribunal proceedings being issued.

As of 1 December 2020, the ACAS early conciliation period has been amended to provide for a six-week conciliation period in all claims instead of the one-month conciliation period which was previously applicable. The parties will no longer be able to agree a 14-day extension to the conciliation period, however the new six-week default means that parties do not have to worry about finalising and agreeing an extension after one-month. In practice, little will change for the parties involved. The key driver behind the change was that due to a backlog of cases, many potential respondents were not being contacted by ACAS until the third or fourth week of the conciliation period.

The rules have also been amended to allow for ACAS early conciliation officers to contact the parties to correct errors on the Early Conciliation Forms, which was not previously possible. This  means that successful strike out applications based on errors in the Early Conciliation Forms will be much harder for respondents to achieve in future.

If you require further information on the new ACAS early conciliation process, please contact Michelle Chance, Employment Partner or Verity Ingle, Employment Solicitor.