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Articles Employment 12th Jan 2015

Employment Review: January 2015 – ACAS Early Conciliation statistics published

Six months after the introduction of compulsory Early Conciliation, ACAS have released statistics to demonstrate how the changes which came into force in April 2014 have developed throughout the year. The statistics can be summarised as follows:

  • since 6 April 2014, 37,404 cases have been referred for Early Conciliation. These were made up of 36,162 employee referrals and only 1,242 employer led referrals;
  • ACAS received approximately 1,000 new referrals per week in April 2014 when the scheme was first launched and this has increased to approximately 1,600 new referrals per week for the remainder of the year;
  • only 10% of employees and 10% of employers rejected the opportunity to use Early Conciliation to explore the possibility of settling a claim;
  • 18% of cases achieved settlement via an ACAS COT3 Agreement and, of the remainder, 58% did not progress to the Employment Tribunal (these may also include cases where the employee decided not to proceed after having spoken to an ACAS Conciliator or where settlement reached as a result of conciliation was dealt with informally between the employer and employee rather than via a COT3 Agreement);
  • 24% of Early Conciliation cases did progress to litigation.

It is notable that ACAS Conciliation remains available up to the day of a case being heard by the Employment Tribunal. Statistics also show that many cases which do not settle during the initial 4 week Early Conciliation period are still concluded via settlement prior to reaching a full Tribunal hearing.

What does this mean for employers?

The statistics outlined above broadly show that the new scheme has been a success and that the ACAS system has been coping well under the strain of a vast increase in claims going through its systems.

One point for consideration is the fact that many cases which are not settled through Early Conciliation or otherwise, do not go on to the Tribunal (according to the statistics up to 58% of cases!). This could be because they are ‘try on’ cases, which are being ‘knocked on the head’ at an early stage. If this is the case the Early Conciliation process could be said to be doing a great deal to assist employers in dealing with ‘frivolous’ claims. Of course, some of these could be legitimate claims that are deterred or prevented from proceeding because of the introduction of the Employment Tribunal fees. ACAS have acknowledged that further research is required to determine what the true explanation is.

Off the back of these new statistics, it looks like Early Conciliation is vastly changing the landscape of employment litigation. It is therefore important for employers to embrace the concept of ‘alternative dispute resolution’ in dealing with employment issues. The introduction of Early Conciliation (together with Employment Tribunal Fees) looks to have gone quite some way to minimising litigation and claims by vastly reducing the number of frivolous or ‘try on’ cases at the very least. Employers should continue to consider how Early Conciliation can be used tactically as a method of further minimising the number of employment claims they receive, as well as reducing the cost of any claims which do arise.

This is only a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist advice should be sought from a member of Freeths Employment Team in relation to any queries.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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