What is Early Conciliation?

Joy Drummond
Partner, Employment Law Solicitor

Early Conciliation is a process that aims to help resolve workplace disputes through ACAS without having to go to an Employment Tribunal.

Since 2014, it’s been a legal requirement in England and Wales to go through Early Conciliation before you can submit a claim against your employer.

Workplace disputes do not always have to be settled at an Employment Tribunal. In most cases, you’ll find that you and your employer would benefit more if the issue was resolved without a Tribunal hearing. It can reduce the stress of the situation, and save you money in legal costs.

Our Employment Law Solicitors can help by representing you during the Early Conciliation process. Having a specialist Employment Law Solicitor on board can give you a more robust argument, and we can offer you advice on the early prospects of success and the likely value of any claims you may have if they are successful.

For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors.

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

When is Early Conciliation Required?

As well as the threat of dismissal and risk of redundancy unhappiness at work can be for many reasons, such as unfair treatment, a lack of equal opportunities, bullying or harassment. Whatever the cause of the dispute is, a conflict in the workplace can be counter-productive and creates an uneasy environment to work in; and can sometimes result in claims including for:

Increased conflict is often made worse by poorly trained management, unclear job roles and poor communications.

If you’re experiencing any of the above and wish to make a tribunal claim, it is mandatory to go through the Early Conciliation process with ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) for which strict time limits apply.

Starting the Early Conciliation Process

The earlier you resolve a workplace-related dispute, the better. If informal approaches have not resolved the problem you should lodge a grievance or appeal with your employer, who should have a grievance procedure in place which you should follow to try to settle the dispute.

In case this fails and you need to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal, you must notify ACAS to start the Early Conciliation process. You must do this within the time limit even if you are awaiting a final decision from your employer.

There are some important things to consider at this stage:

  • Are you within your timeframe for making a claim?
  • Is your claim against a perpetrator, or the organisation, or both?
  • Have you filled out the ACAS form accurately?

Filing a claim in the Employment Tribunal must be done within three months (less one day) of the date the incident or dismissal occurred. You must fill out an Early Conciliation form within this time frame. The three-month clock is paused whilst Early Conciliation is in progress.

If you’re suing a person, as well as the organisation, then you will need to fill out separate Early Conciliation forms. If you don’t, then you won’t be able to pursue a claim against all parties.

Accuracy is key. You must use the correct name for the legal identity of your employer. Failure to do this could cause issues when it comes to filing your claim at Tribunal.

Our Employment Solicitors are very experienced in handling ACAS and can help to ensure that you go through the process smoothly and without any undue stress.

What Happens Next?

Once you’ve submitted the Early Conciliation form then ACAS will send you an acknowledgement, either by email or letter. Keep this, as it’s a formal record of your submission.

You’ll be asked to contact ACAS who will ask you some basic questions will be asked about your claim, and the Early Conciliation process will be explained to you by the Conciliator.

An ACAS Conciliator being involved can help take some of the emotion out of the situation. You may well still feel very aggrieved by what has happened to you, but at the same time you may be wanting to avoid a costly legal battle and Early conciliation through ACAS can help you do that.

Coming to an Agreement

If an agreement is reached, then both parties are required to sign a form known as the COT3. This sets out the terms of the agreement and is a legally binding document. Alternatively, the employer will agree to pay compensation in a Settlement Agreement, or an agreement may be made on any non-disclosure of details.

In either case, if you do agree at this stage, you are waiving your right to pursue claims in an Employment Tribunal and usually in court as well.

If you can’t come to an agreement, ACAS will close the conciliation process and issue a certificate to state that the process has concluded. You can then continue your claim to the Employment Tribunal. Remember to accurately record the certificate number issued by ACAS when you file your claim at Tribunal.

Get Legal Advice

Coming to a compromised settlement can sometimes be the best outcome here. Whichever way you decide to go, our Employment Law Solicitors can help you.

We offer free initial guidance on possible legal claims, options and next steps. We can help you to understand any legal aspects of the process, and with our help, your claim will be taken very seriously by your employer.

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