Acas Early Conciliation – Is it working?

Since 6 May 2014, it has been mandatory for anyone intending to bring an employment tribunal claim to contact Acas prior to submitting their claim. Acas will then seek to promote settlement during a month long conciliation period. Neither party is obliged to participate in early conciliation.

So, after six months, is there any evidence to suggest that this early conciliation service has been successful in achieving its aims; namely to encourage early settlement of claims and thus reduce the amount of tribunal litigation?
Acas has recently published the first six months’ figures showing how early conciliation is working. This reveals that, over the first six months, it has conciliated in 37,000 cases (some of which were multiple claims).

Only 10% of employees rejected the offer of early conciliation once they have submitted their early conciliation form. Similarly, only 10% of employers declined to participate in early conciliation once Acas contacted them.
Early indications show that 18% of early conciliations that took place in the first three months of the scheme, resulted in settlement terms being agreed between the parties by way of a COT3 agreement. Of those conciliations that did not result in settlement, over 2/3rds did not then progress to a tribunal claim.

Whilst Acas can be rightly encouraged by the fact that few parties have refused to participate in the process, it is not all good news. In the first three months of the scheme, early conciliation has removed just 3046 claims from the tribunal system. It would seem that most employers are unwilling to settle a case without first seeing the claim put in writing so that they can properly assess the likely outcome.
These figures also support the fact that the introduction of tribunal fees is continuing to have a major impact; because they reveal that there are a large number of people who contact Acas because they believe they have a claim but then do not actually proceed to file a claim.

The future of the tribunal fee regime is likely to be a “hot topic” in the run up to the general election next year.
Camilla Beamish