Early Conciliation: The Process
Before a claim can be brought to the Employment Tribunal, it must go through the Early Conciliation process with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). The tribunal will not accept a claim unless it has been through the ACAS Early Conciliation process.
For early conciliation to begin, a notification form must be first filled out and submitted. It is important to note that employers, as well as employees, can use Early Conciliation if there is a workplace dispute which they think will lead to a claim.
Once Acas receives the form, the Claimant will receive a call from their ACAS conciliator, confirming whether or not they still want to go ahead with the claim. The conciliator will then approach the employer to begin the process.
If Acas do not hear from the Claimant, or cannot make contact with them over a long period, they will close the case, and an Early Conciliation certificate will be issued.
How Long Does It Last For?
Early Conciliation is scheduled to last one calendar month, to allow Acas enough time to contact both the parties and reach an agreement. This period may be extended for a maximum of fourteen days if agreed by both parties.
An employee either has three months or twelve months to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. The time limit for bringing a claim is paused once a Claimant contacts ACAS. Early Conciliation will pause the time limit for up to one calendar month, extendable by a further fourteen days if needed. Once Early Conciliation has ended, and the Claimant receives their formal acknowledgement, the time limit will start running again.
If Early Conciliation is Successful
If the parties reach an agreement through Early Conciliation, the conciliator will document what has been agreed on an Acas form, namely a COT3. This is essentially a settlement agreement that both parties will sign. The COT3 is legally binding, meaning that the Claimant will not be able to take the claim to Tribunal at a later date.
If Early Conciliation is Unsuccessful
If the matter cannot be resolved, then Acas will end Early Conciliation, leaving the Claimant to make a Tribunal claim if they still wish to do so. The Claimant will receive a formal acknowledgement (Early Conciliation certificate), confirming that conciliation has ended. The employer will also receive a formal acknowledgement that conciliation has finished if they have been involved in the conciliation process.
In order to submit a claim, the Claimant must put their unique reference number from their Early Conciliation certificate onto the tribunal claim form.
If both parties want to continue discussions after the Early Conciliation period has ended, the conciliator will be available on request to assist the parties. If the Claimant pursues a Tribunal claim, the conciliator will still offer to help the parties to resolve the matter without needing to go to a tribunal hearing.