Avoiding the dreaded employment tribunal claim

Sallie Davies, Employment Solicitor

You are rushing headlong to the edge of the waterfall, swept along by the rapids. Feelings are running high, there is a sense of danger. But wait – there must be a better way – you grab hold of a rock and cling there. You don’t want to go over the edge into the tumult. And you don’t have to.

Ok so I’m not talking about waterfalls, I’m talking about Employment Tribunals. Any legal action is stressful and potentially expensive and the wise person tries to avoid going anywhere near it. One way to do this where employment is concerned is through ACAS. Its pre-claim conciliation service tries to settle employment disputes before they end up as Tribunal claims. ACAS is the rock in the rapids – there is no guarantee you will not end up going over the edge into the turmoil of legal action , but it is worth a try. Both employers and employees can approach ACAS to use this service.

Use of pre-claim conciliation has risen since it was introduced in 2009. In 2011/12 it dealt with 23,777 cases and settled 78% of them. That’s over 18,500 potential claims diverted from the Employment Tribunals and, believe me, that is a meaningful figure given the pressure the system is under at present. That is why the government is proposing compulsory ‘early conciliation’ where anyone wishing to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal must go to ACAS first. Sounds like a good plan.

However, my own experience of pre-claim conciliation is not great. When acting for individuals, I have attempted to engage the employer with ACAS before filing a claim only to be met with a firm ‘no’. Why? I can only guess that the employer wants to wait and see whether the employee is serious by actually filing the claim. In theory mandatory conciliation would solve this problem but I have yet to see an employer who will properly engage before the employee tumbles over the edge of the waterfall and shows he means business.

The above is general comment only. For specific advice contact Sallie Davies at Blocks Solicitors on 01473 343922 or sjd@blockslegal.co.uk.