ACAS to settle employment disputes outside of court from 6 May

The Employment Tribunal deals with a number of employment disputes such as unfair dismissal, redundancy payments and discrimination. When people feel they have been wronged in the workplace, they submit a claim to the Tribunal in the hope that they can be awarded a generous sum in compensation.

But from 6 May this year, all individuals who wish to submit a claim will need to first contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in order to go through a process called early conciliation. This involves discussing the dispute with a qualified member of ACAS who will attempt to bring both parties to an agreed settlement out of court. The process takes up to a month to complete after which, if no settlement is agreed, the employee has one month to submit their claim to the Tribunal.

The question is what benefits will this have for both employers and those wanting to bring a claim

Firstly, there is an obvious benefit for the Tribunal which is tied down with hundreds of claims each year from those seeking justice against their employers. The truth is that many claims could be settled outside of court which would ultimately take less time, resources and effort. The idea of early conciliation being used before trial may reduce the pressure put on the Tribunal, allowing to deal with cases more efficiently.

From the employer’s perspective, Tribunal cases are dealt with publicly and may create bad press for the business or organisation. Early conciliation will mean dealing with disputes privately and confidential information can remain confidential. ACAS also claims on their website, the results taken from independent research, that “resolving a case through Pre Claim Conciliation (the forerunner to Early Conciliation) is just £475, with employers spending on average one day on a claim, compared to an average of £3700 and four days for an Employment Tribunal.”

In terms of employees, individuals are more likely to get a decent settlement outside of court since employers aren’t keen on lengthy and costly court proceedings. A hearing may cause the person involved a great deal of stress and emotional strain that could easily be avoided by resolving the issue without a trial. On the other hand, there will always be some who that won’t feel justice has been served unless decided by a judge and so push towards a court battle.

Time will only tell whether this new initiative can fulfil the many promises that ACAS are making but for now, any attempt in improving the settlement of disputes seems to be a step in the right direction. 

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