In Cranwell v Cullen the EAT decided that the ACAS Conciliation requirements must be met before a Tribunal can hear a claim, even if this resulted in apparent unfairness.
The facts in this case were simple, the Claimant submitted her claim to an employment tribunal without previously complying with the requirement, in s.18A of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996, to supply prescribed information to ACAS. No exemption from this requirement applied on the facts of the case. The Judge rejected the claim on this ground and the EAT upheld the decision.
This was a sad case. If her allegations were true, the Claimant had been appallingly treated, including being sexually harassed. She may have thought ACAS conciliation meant having to talk to the person meting out the treatment and she had an injunction out against her former employer.
But outside the permitted exemptions the Employment Judge had no choice. The requirement for ACAS early Conciliation is absolute and strict. There was nothing in the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure that allowed discretion, even in a case which attracted the fullest sympathy of the Tribunal.