Employees must now notify Acas before bringing an employment tribunal claim

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There’s a big change to employment law procedues this month. Employees must now notify Acas (by telephone, or by filing a form which can then be posted or submitted online) before they are allowed to bring an employment tribunal claim. This was optional from 6th April 2014, but became compulsory on the 6th May.

If the employee doesn’t tell Acas before lodging a tribunal claim, the claim will automatically be rejected by the employment tribunal. If the employee does tell Acas that they intend to bring a claim, Acas will try to help both sides settle. Either side can refuse to negotiate, in which case the employee can go to the tribunal. Conciliation can last up to six weeks, if everyone agrees a settlement is feasible, and the employee then gets at least a month from conciliation failing to bring a tribunal claim (the time limits are complex, but it’s always at least a month after the Acas conciliation ends).

Is this a good idea? Whilst in theory the new procedure will promote conciliation and reduce tribunal costs, we’re not sure that it will work with anything but the simplest, lowest value cases – mainly because most employers will want to wait and see whether the employee will pay the £250 fee now required to start their tribunal claim. According to statistics last month, two-thirds of employees don’t.