The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is a significant piece of employment legislation. It will make various changes to the way that the justice system handles employment tribunal claims in order to reduce the amount of tribunal claims being brought each year, as well as imposing harsher penalties on employers who breach employment laws. In a series of articles, we will look closer at what the Bill means in reality. The requirement for tribunal claims to be made to Acas in the first instance in order that conciliation can be offered; Prospective claimants will be legally required to consider a form of early conciliation prior to their claim progressing to a tribunal. The service, offered by Acas, will be introduced in the hope of reducing the number of cases brought before the tribunal. However, although the obligation on the claimant to report the matter to Acas initially is mandatory, the early conciliation offered in response remains voluntary. In order to distinguish which parties are open to the conciliation a two stage process is proposed. First, an “early conciliation support officer” will contact the individual on receipt of their claim details. This is in order to gather further information regarding the claim. At this stage if it is unable to make contact with the claimant, or either of the parties expresses no desire to undergo the conciliation offered, a certificate will be issued to the claimant. This is a compulsory document if the claimant then wishes to proceed to the tribunal. Secondly, if both parties do consent to early conciliation a conciliation officer will be appointed. Should conciliation be successful, the settlement will be binding on both parties and the matter closed. If however a settlement is not reached a certificate will be issued and the claimant may progress to tribunal. Alternatively the conciliation officer may only be able to obtain a partial settlement and any outstanding matters may need to be heard by the tribunal. A tribunal will not process a claim where a conciliation certificate has not been issued. Introduction of a Rapid Resolution Scheme, which parties can opt for, for low value or simple claims where a legal officer will decide the case on the production of paperwork, removing the need for a hearing and a judge; This will be an option available to parties involved in low value claims which are not legally complex, for example, a dispute regarding holiday pay. The scheme will be a fast track approach which seeks to resolve issues quicker and at less expense to both parties involved. Upon receiving written consent from both parties, the matter will be transferred to a “legal officer” to determine the outcome. The appointment of a “legal officer” is said to not infringe the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act as each officer will be screened prior to receiving a case to ensure they remain independent and impartial from the parties involved. By Nicola Mullineux For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.