Early conciliation was introduced back in 2017 following the abolition of employment tribunal fees. Before claims can be issued in the employment tribunal individuals must engage in ACAS early conciliation. Briefly, this involves submitting an online application form on the ACAS website providing contact details for the individual and their employer. ACAS then appoint a conciliator to try and work with the parties to resolve the issue(s) with a view to avoiding litigation.
ACAS published its annual report last week which confirms that demand for early conciliation over the past year has soared, up 20% on the previous 12 months. Of the 132,722 early conciliation cases dealt with by ACAS, 10% were resolved by COT3 agreement with only 27% resulting in a claim being issued with the employment tribunal. That figure is supported by the quarterly tribunal statistics for January to March 2019 which show an increase of only 6% in new employment tribunal claims when compared with the same quarter in 2018 which suggests that, whilst the number of claims is still increasing, it is doing so at a slower rate.
These statistics are encouraging from an employer’s perspective and are no doubt welcome news for the tribunal service which is struggling to cope with the volume of tribunal claims. Evidence from the tribunal front line is of lengthy delays getting hearing dates, last minute adjournments due to a lack of judges & administrative delays. Fifty new employment judges have recently been recruited and it is to be hoped that this, combined with the slowdown in the number of claims, will help get the tribunal service back on track.