Acas Early Conciliation - New Rules

Published: January 19th, 2021

4 min read

A claim to an employment tribunal must usually be made within 3 months less 1 day. This is known as the 'limitation date'. For example, if an employee wants to claim for unfair dismissal, they have 3 months less 1 day from the date their employment ended to make the claim. However this is with the exception of an issue around redundancy pay or equal pay, these claims must be made within 6 months.

When Acas receive an employees early conciliation notification, the limitation date gets extended so that there's enough time for early conciliation to take place. Until now, this time frame was extended by one month.

However, the new Acas early conciliation time frame came into force today, 03 December 2020. This means that there is now a standard six week Acas early conciliation process (rather than a one month process, with a possible extension of a further two weeks).

Therefore, for notifications received before 1 December 2020, talks take place over the phone for up to one month. That period can be extended by 2 weeks if you're close to an agreement. For notifications received on or after 1 December 2020, talks can take place over the phone for up to 6 weeks.

Impact on Employers

This does not fundamentally change the legal position of claims. However employers will need to be aware of the new Acas time limits, to ensure that they comply with the relevant deadlines when responding to claims, and corresponding with the Employment Tribunals going forward. Employers should also be aware that the new time limits means that they will have a longer period of time to negotiate any potential settlement with the employee, prior to the claim actually proceeding to an Employment Tribunal.

The previous one-month period was always available to the parties under the old rules, with the possibility of a further two week extension. The new six-week period reflects the reality of the time limit of an early conciliation period in a typical case that is capable of settlement during the early conciliation period. Of course, as this is a new implementation of time limits, we are unable to comment on whether a standard six-week early conciliation period will result in a greater number of cases achieving a pre-claim resolution, which is ultimately the aim for the change in time limits.

These amendments will also make any application for a claim to be struck out on the basis of errors in the EC form much harder to achieve.

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