ACAS Early Conciliation: Could it help you?

Caragh Bailey
02/10/2020
acas early conciliation advice from employment law friend

When you have fallen out with your employer and you cannot find a resolution by other means, or the issue is very serious, you may have to go to court (the employment tribunal). If this is the case, ACAS provide 'early conciliation' to ease communication between you and try to help find a settlement out of court.

Even if you do not think you will be able to solve the problem without taking it to the employment tribunal, it is worth trying early conciliation anyway. If you do happen to reach an agreement ('settlement') outside of court, you may save yourself a lot of money, If you don't, having shown willing to reach a resolution by early conciliation may help your case in court. Plus, ACAS early conciliation is free.

Is ACAS Early Conciliation free?

Yes

Will ACAS contact my employer?

The early conciliation process is confidential, they will only contact your employer with your agreement.

Does ACAS Early Conciliation work?

Early conciliation is impartial mediation for people who plan to go to the employment tribunal, because of a dispute with their employer over employment law.

You must notify ACAS that you intend to make a claim to the employment tribunal first.
- Even if you do not want early conciliation.

Early conciliation is a free way to get help to find a resolution instead of going to tribunal.

Whether conciliation works for you will depend on your individual case.

Before early conciliation and/or taking a claim to tribunal,you should first:
    1
    Try to discuss the issue informally with your boss.
If raising a grievance has not solved your problem, hopefully early conciliation will. If you do have to make your claim at the employment tribunal, having shown willing to reach a resolution by early conciliation may help your case in court.

What is the ACAS Early Conciliation time limit?

Three months minus one day.
The ‘limitation date’ to make a claim to the employment tribunal (industrial tribunal in NI) is three months minus one day. In a case of unfair dismissal, this would be 3 months minus one day from the date of dismissal.

If you raise the issue with your employer first, it does not affect your time limit.

You must notify ACAS of your intention to go to tribunal within three months minus one day of the incident.
If the claim is about redundancy pay or equal pay your limitation date is 6 months.

Once you have given ACAS your early conciliation notification, the limitation date will be extended, so that you have time for the early conciliation process before going to the employment tribunal

How long is the early conciliation process?

Talks take place over the phone for up to one month. If, at the end of that month, you are close to an agreement, talks can be extended by two weeks.

What is the ACAS Early Conciliation process?


    2
    ACAS will offer you early conciliation.

    Read this page at GOV.UK to find out if you are exempt from early conciliation and can go straight to the employment tribunal.

    Attempting to find a resolution at early conciliation may help your case if, or when, you go to Tribunal.

    3
    If you do opt for conciliation, ACAS will ask you for the details of your dispute.

    If not, they will give you a certificate which will enable you to go straight to tribunal (skip the rest of this article and read more about the tribunal process here).

    If they do not hear back from you, they will send you the certificate anyway.

How long is an ACAS certificate valid for?

Your certificate is valid for you to go to tribunal up to one month after the date that the certificate is issued. If you have more than one month left to your original limitation date, you keep the original limitation date.

    4
    You’ll receive a confirmation letter from ACAS with a phone number (or, if you’ve told them you can’t use the phone, they’ll email you).

    5
    You contact ACAS at the phone number or email address provided, and they will ask you some questions about the claim against your employer.

    6
    The conciliator will speak with you, (or your representative) to understand how you would like the dispute resolved.

    7
    If you agree, they will ask your employer if they are willing to take part in early conciliation.

Tell your conciliator if you have changed address; or,
If you do not want your address shared with your employer.

    8
    If your employer agrees to take part in early conciliation, the conciliator will speak with both of you to try and find a resolution which satisfies you both.

Frequently Asked Questions
ACAS will give you a form with a number on it, you use this number to fill out form ET1 if you want to take your claim on to tribunal.

Your conciliator can:
Your conciliator can’t:
  • Explain the early conciliation process
  • Talk through the issues with both sides
  • Talk through the possible options moving forward
  • Discuss ways you might be able to resolve the issue instead of going to tribunal
  • Take sides
  • Represent either side legally
  • Help you prepare your legal case
  • Advise you on whether to accept a settlement deal, or go on to tribunal
  • Advise you on the likely outcomes of your trial
ACAS will write your agreement up in a settlement form called a COT3.

This is legally binding even before you have signed it.

You will not be able to take your claim to the employment tribunal.

ACAS will give you a certificate with a number on it, you use this number to fill out form ET1 if you want to take your claim forward to tribunal.

Your certificate is valid for you to go to tribunal up to one month after the date that the certificate is issued. If you have more than one month left to your original limitation date, you keep the original limitation date.

What happens next?
You can continue to speak to ACAS until a judgment is made at tribunal. You will likely keep the same conciliator.

Conciliation will not affect the tribunal case and remains confidential unless you give permission for your conciliator to share the details of the conciliation process (no longer ‘early’ conciliation)

You can agree to a settlement up until the tribunal takes place, when your case will be heard in a courtroom and a judge will decide what happens next.


Do you need help or legal advice?
Speak to our co-founder Claudine Boast who is a practising solicitor and runs her own law firm, Parachute Law. Click here to get in touch about your case:

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.

 
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