What is early conciliation?
ACAS will begin a confidential process of trying to resolve a dispute between employer and employee before Employment Tribunal proceedings are begun. Early conciliation is then available at any time up to a Tribunal hearing. The ACAS Guide To Early Conciliation can be accessed from this link.
Is early conciliation compulsory?
No. An employee must contact ACAS to inform them of the intention to bring a claim, but there is no obligation on either employer or employee to participate in the conciliation process.
ACAS will contact the employer to establish if it wishes to conciliate. If either party refuses to conciliate, then ACAS will issue an early conciliation certificate number that must be quoted on the Employment Tribunal claim form. Without that number Tribunal claims will not be permitted to proceed.
Which disputes does early conciliation apply to?
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Early conciliation applies to most employment disputes, including claims for:
- unfair dismissal and unfair selection for redundancy
- discrimination claims
- redundancy payments
- unpaid wages, notice or holiday pay
- the right to time off or flexible working
What if there is more than one party to the dispute?
If the dispute is with more than one employer or person an employee must complete a separate form for each. Separate early conciliation certificate numbers will be issued which must be quoted in the Tribunal proceedings. An employee must use the same identities in proceedings as in the conciliation process otherwise the Tribunal may dismiss the claim.
What does early conciliation cover?
The conciliator will explain the process, discuss the issues with both sides and try to achieve a solution. The conciliator will discuss the options (including possible arbitration) and communicate any proposals for a settlement.
What does early conciliation not cover?
The conciliator will not make a recommendation or judgment on the dispute, nor speculate on the likely outcome of a hearing. The conciliator will not recommend a response to any offer nor assist in the preparation of a claim.
How long does early conciliation last?
Up to one calendar month, although ACAS can extend this by 14 days if there is a real prospect of settlement.
How does early conciliation affect time limits?
The usual time limits for Employment Tribunal proceedings continue to apply, but time will be suspended for the actual period of time the parties conciliate. This is calculated as the day after an employee contacts ACAS until the day the certificate number is issued by email (or is deemed to be issued after two working days if sent by post). The number of days the parties conciliate is added to the time limit. If however the time limit expires during conciliation (or would expire but for an extension of time) then time is extended by one calendar month from the date time would have expired. ACAS will not assist in calculating time limits and extensions of time.
What if time has already expired before ACAS is contacted?
Early conciliation should proceed in the usual way and thereafter an application must be made to the Employment Tribunal to extend time to allow proceedings to continue.