Amendments to the Acas early conciliation (EC) procedure came into force on 1 December 2020.
There is now a standard six week Acas EC process in place for all cases, where previously it was one month with a possible extension of a further 14 days. Also, Acas can now, at any point during EC, contact the prospective claimant to correct errors or obtain any missing information.
Early conciliation (EC)
The mandatory Acas EC procedure has been in force since 6 May 2014 and must be followed by claimants who present claims in the majority of employment tribunal proceedings. The EC procedure requires a prospective claimant to notify Acas, using an EC form or by telephone, before submitting proceedings to the tribunal. Following the claimant's notification, Acas will make contact with both prospective parties to determine whether they wish to conciliate. If conciliation fails, Acas will issue an EC certificate containing a reference. A claim form will be rejected by the employment tribunal if it contains no EC reference number.
Extension to EC period to six weeks
If the parties do wish to conciliate, the EC period now lasts for six weeks. This is a welcome simplification of the rules. It gives more time in all cases for settlement to take place. This longer six week period will also mean that some cases will arrive at the tribunal slightly later (although the rules on calculating the limitation period have not changed). Both of these may assist with the rise in claims that are expected following the end of the furlough scheme (more information about this is available here).
Acas correcting errors
As of 1 December 2020, Acas can now contact the parties to correct errors on the EC form at any point during the EC period. This is a significant improvement, as prior to this amendment, Acas had to either reject an EC form or simply continue with it if it had missing information or errors in it.