Resolution services body the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has secured £3m in funding ahead of employment law changes introducing early conciliation next year.
Early conciliation will come into force in spring 2014. It will require individuals bringing a case to a tribunal to notify Acas through an online form, rather than going directly to HM Courts & Tribunals Service as at present.
The change was made through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act. The measure is intended to save money in tribunal costs by bringing parties to a resolution sooner. ‘Where appropriate it will lead to fewer cases,’ said Acas chief executive Anne Sharp.
Richard Fox, chair of the Employment Lawyers Association and head of Kingsley Napley’s employment department, said the measure would need time to succeed. ‘If embedded in, it will change employment litigation,’ he said.
The association had previously raised concerns that Acas would not be able to administer the new procedure under current resources.
‘It is undoubtedly a challenge because it means conciliation comes at the front end of the process, not the back. Parties are used to settlement when they are just about to knock on the door of the tribunal,’ Fox said. ‘This is an opportunity for the legal profession to embrace the changes.’
The £3m funding will go into IT systems, and staff training and recruitment for 2013/14. Acas is currently in talks with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about funding for running costs after 2014.
The number of full-time-equivalent conciliators will go up by 20% to 275 by the start of 2014. Acas has also secured funding for 40 early conciliation support officers.