Can early conciliation succeed where dispute resolution procedures failed?


Consultant editor Darren Newman asks if the new early conciliation process can avoid the unforeseen litigation over the detail that resulted from the statutory dispute resolution procedures, introduced with the intention of resolving disputes at an early stage, but abandoned a few years later.

Those of us who had to work with the statutory dispute resolution procedures that were in force between 2004 and 2008 are scarred by the experience. The procedures were introduced with the intention of encouraging the early resolution of employment disputes but actually led to more complexity and more litigation.

In particular, the requirement for tribunals to reject any claim if the claimant had not first completed at least step one of the statutory grievance procedure led to a mass of case law on just what that involved. No one mourned their passing when the procedures were abolished by the Labour Government that had introduced them just four years earlier.

Move forward to 2014, and there is a new requirement, introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, for those seeking to bring an employment tribunal claim first to contact Acas so that an attempt at early conciliation can be made. This early conciliation service will be available from 6 April this year and compulsory from 6 May.

However, having experienced the statutory dispute resolution procedures, it is difficult for me to look at these new plans to encourage the early resolution of disputes without asking if they might result in similar unintended consequences.

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Darren Newman

About Darren Newman

Darren Newman qualified as a barrister in 1990, and has represented both employers and employees at tribunal. He provides straightforward practical guidance on a wide range of employment law issues. Darren also works as a consultant editor for XpertHR.
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