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ACAS Early Conciliation - Is it Working?

By Ian Abel, Michael Lewin Solicitors

September 9 2014 - ACAS have released some statistics regarding the first quarter of Early Conciliation. The statistics cover the period from 6 April 2014 to 30 June 2014. From 6 April 2014 to 5 May 2014 Early Conciliation was optional but not compulsory and resulted in 3833 new requests. This equates to roughly 1000 per week during April.

From 5 May 2014, Early Conciliation became compulsory and it is not possible to lodge an employment tribunal claim until it has been attempted. There were 6544 notifications in May 2014 and 6768 in June. This shows that the notifications increased to an approximate rate of 1600 per week once the scheme became mandatory.

At the end of the first quarter 1873 cases resulted in a COT3, the legal document used to settle a claim via ACAS. This is 16.5% of the total of 11,355 cases that ended their Early Conciliation period during the quarter. A further 19% confirm that after the Early Conciliation period they would not be taking the case any further. This could be for a variety of reasons such as some cases being resolved informally without the need for a COT3 or following advice from ACAS the Claimant realises they do not have a claim worth pursuing. Whilst the statistics may appear encouraging on the face of it, it does mean that approximately 64.5% of claims remain in the tribunal system and are not settled via Early Conciliation. This figure means that it can effectively be argued that ACAS early conciliation is working in roughly one third of cases.

In my own humble opinion I approach these statistics with some cynicism. As this is an ACAS scheme, there is bound to be some element of them putting a positive spin on their own figures. Further it has happened occasionally in the past, where ACAS calculate their figures wrong and need to revise these at a later period. It would therefore not surprise me if these figures were potentially inaccurate and were revised at a later date.

Given that Early Conciliation only became a mandatory process in May, it is still too early to provide data (from ACAS) as to how many cases are during this period went on to lodge a subsequent employment tribunal claim. Some of these statistics should be available by the end of the next quarter and I await these with interest.

Therefore whilst these statistics may well appear positive that the Early Conciliation scheme is working, it would be my view that it is still too soon to judge this and will require data from the next two quarters to be able to fully understand the impact and implications of ACAS early conciliation.

About the author

Ian Abel is Head of the Employment Department at Michael Lewin Solicitors

Ian acts for both employers and employees in dealing with a full case load of both contentious and non-contentious employment law issues. He has advised large PLCs, SMEs as well as a variety of professional sports clubs. He has also been instructed by senior employees such as directors working for multi-national PLCs and professional sports people in their individual capacity.

Ian is known for his commercial and pragmatic approach to employment law issues whilst providing his clients with clear, simple and bespoke legal advice.

Ian is also an FA registered lawyer (registration number RLA 1614) as well as a member of the Employment Lawyers Association. He is a regular commentator on employment law issues through his regular column for The Yorkshire Times and frequently contributes articles for a number of well-known HR & Employment Law websites. He also appears on local media, such as BBC Radio Leeds discussing topical employment law stories.


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