Much debate will no doubt continue regarding the practical value and impact of ACAS Early Conciliation, and the approaches which employees and employers take to engage with its requirements.
Parties may use the process to seek to establish the strength of their position to the other party in order to prevent litigation or encourage settlement. Or they may purely refuse to engage in the process if it is considered pointless, perhaps, from the employer’s perspective, pending the individual showing commitment to his or her claim by paying the fee required to commence proceedings (if applicable).
On 7 July 2015 ACAS published statistics on the first year of operation of Early Conciliation. In excess of 83,000 cases went to Early Conciliation between 6 April 2014 and 31 March 2015. Some 84% of Claimants and 87% of employers said they would use it again. Some 15% of Early Conciliation cases were concluded by way of a COT3 settlement, 63% did not progress to an Employment Tribunal Claim and 22% did lead to a Tribunal Claim, however over half of those cases were eventually resolved by ACAS later down the line before the main hearing.
While the scheme is assisting the resolution of cases to some extent, it would seem likely that the discussions about Tribunal fees will have a greater impact on whether cases end up proceeding to the Tribunal or not.
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