From 5 May 2014, most people planning to bring a claim against their employer in an employment tribunal will be obliged to contact ACAS and provide them with certain specified information about their claims before they bring a claim. ACAS will then try to promote and explore the possibility of settlement of any claims. The will apply to most but not all employment law claims.

Neither the Claimant or employer can be forced to mediate or conciliate, but a Claimant cannot bring a claim in an employment tribunal unless they’ve provided the information to ACAS and obtained an early conciliation certificate from them.

Time limits for bringing employment tribunal claims are also affected by the process. In order to allow time to explore settlement, a “Stop-Clock” system has been put in place which temporarily freezes/extends the normal time limit for the claims contemplated when the information is provided. This can extend the time limit by up to one further month, but it may be less depending on when ACAS decides to issue a certificate.

Mark Cornish, employment law specialist at Grant Saw, comments;

“There’s considerable concern amongst employment lawyers about the way this will work in practice. The Stop-Clock provisions in particular seem designed to bemuse and befuddle – so much for reducing red tape. I’ve seen experienced employment solicitors struggle to get to grips with the new provisions, which contain a number of traps for the unwary and/or unrepresented.

It now seems almost inevitable that we’re in for yet another tedious round of cases arguing about time limits, and the admissibility of claims. Far from learning from the debacle that was the Employment Dispute Resolution Regulations (repealed after just four years as unworkable R.I.P. – 2004-2008), our legislators seem to have contrived to put a whole new (and potentially even more confusing) set of rules to trip up unsuspecting Claimants in their place.”

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.