In most Employment Tribunal cases, a Claimant must provide ACAS with prescribed information before starting proceedings, specifically the names and addresses of the prospective parties. The rules state that if there are more than one prospective Respondent, a separate form must be presented for each Respondent. Proceedings therefore cannot commence until a Certificate has been issued by ACAS confirming Early Conciliation has been completed.
In the recent case of de Mota v ADR Network and the Cooperative Group Ltd UK, the Claimant made claims against 2 Respondents, ADR and the Co-op, who both denied being the Claimant's employer. Despite ACAS’s guidance, the Claimant only completed one form and named the Respondent as an amalgamation of the two Respondents. The form was accepted by ACAS and an Early Conciliation Certificate was issued.
However, the Employment Tribunal ruled that the Claimant had not satisfied the requirements of Early Conciliation and therefore deemed ACAS had issued an unlawful Certificate. On that basis, the claim was struck out.
The Claimant appealed.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed the appeal, and stated the Employment Tribunal had made an error of law. The focus should have been on the requirement to look at the ACAS Early Conciliation Certificate in whether all the Respondents had been named. There is no requirement in the Early Conciliation Rules of Procedure which state the Early Conciliation Certificate should relate only to one Respondent. Therefore the ACAS Early Conciliation Certificate in this case was a valid Certificate, even though it named two parties.
It is unclear what impact this will have on tribunal cases which have more than one Respondent. For the meantime, the advice is to continue issuing separate forms for each Respondent. However it appears that provided all the Respondents are named on one ACAS Early Conciliation Certificate, all of whom have the same address, this could be sufficient for the purposes of the Employment Tribunal, although such an approach should be taken with caution.