Early conciliation figures may show that “workers could not afford to pay the fee to progress the case”

cwu__1346677317_Employment_tribunalFrom Thompson Solicitors Labour and European Law Review

ACAS has just published the figures for the number of notifications it received for the six months since early conciliation was introduced on a voluntary basis in April this year. In May, it became compulsory for anyone wanting to make a tribunal claim to first notify them in order to try and resolve their dispute before continuing with the claim.

Once a notification is made to Acas, there is an extension to the legal time limit within which the claimant would need to bring a tribunal claim should they decide to do so. The aim of early conciliation is to allow time for discussions to see if those involved can reach an agreement. During this time Acas has a legal duty to offer conciliation, but the parties do not have to accept the offer.

For the first month, Acas received approximately 1,000 notifications per week, increasing to around 1,600 per week for the rest of the period, more or less as it expected. All in all, Acas received just over 37,000 notifications during the period April to September. These figures include some group notifications and the total number of employees covered was just over 44,000.

Overall during the first six months, 10 per cent of employees rejected the offer of conciliation and of the employers contacted (which only happens if the employee has accepted conciliation), only 10 per cent rejected the offer of conciliation.

Almost all the notifications received by Acas between April and June have now had time to reach a final outcome and the statistics show that almost a fifth were settled by way of a binding legal agreement known as a COT3.

However, almost 58 per cent of the claims notified to ACAS did not progress to a tribunal claim. It is not clear why they did not progress. It may be that some were not worth pursuing but that cannot be the case for most of them. It is more likely that for the majority, no agreement having been reached, the worker could simply not afford to pay the fee to progress the case to tribunal.

Conciliation remains available up to the day of a case being heard by a tribunal and almost a quarter of cases (24 per cent) went on to be heard by a tribunal. By the end of October just under a quarter of those had been settled by Acas conciliators. This figure will, of course, continue to rise until all of these cases reach hearing date.

Jo Seery of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “The fact that nearly 2/3 of early conciliation cases did not progress is yet further evidence of the devastating impact fees are having on workers’ ability to access justice – it’s also pretty damning on employers if these issues remain unresolved in the workplace.”

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