Acas Early Conciliation Solicitors

Dealing with Acas to start an employment tribunal claim can be daunting. IBB Solicitor’s employment law team have extensive experience in securing favourable outcomes via Acas.

IBB Solicitor’s employment law team can provide clear, practical guidance on all areas of employment law. Our team includes some of the region’s top ranked employment lawyers with decades of experience advising and representing employees of all levels.

What is Acas early conciliation?

It is a legal requirement, unless an exemption applies, for individuals who want to make an employment tribunal claim to have made an early conciliation notification to Acas. A tribunal will reject a claim form (ET1) unless the complaint has been referred to Acas and a conciliation certificate issued. This certificate confirms that the early conciliation requirements have been met and must be included in the ET1.

If you bring a claim against your employer you will be called the Claimant. Your employer defending the claim will be called the Respondent.

Early conciliation is:

  • voluntary – you are required to contact Acas before making a tribunal claim but you do not have to take part in attempting to resolve this through Acas. If you do agree to early Conciliation, either you of the Respondent can stop the process at any time
  • free – there is no charge to use the Acas early conciliation
  • confidential – what you tell Acas can only be discussed with the Respondent if you agree that it will be helpful in trying to settle your case. Whatever is discussed during early conciliation cannot be used by either party outside of the process or at a tribunal hearing.

Do you need legal representation?

There is no obligation to have a representative in early conciliation. If you appoint a representative to act for you (e.g. a solicitor), Acas will conciliate through them and not you. Your representative may agree a settlement on your behalf. Such settlements are legally binding and will normally prevent you from pursuing a claim that is the subject of early conciliation.

Are there any exceptions to early conciliation?

The requirement to notify Acas applies to nearly all intended tribunal claims with a small number of exceptions. For example, if you are one of number individuals making a claim against the same Respondent and one person has already made a request to Acas in the same dispute, the other potential claimants may not have to. Further information about exceptions can be found on the Acas website at www.acas.org.uk/earlyconciliation. Despite an exemption applying, you can still choose to use early conciliation if you wish.

How is a request for early conciliation made?

The easiest way to start Acas early conciliation is to complete an online Early Conciliation Notification Form. Alternatively, if you cannot access the internet you can discuss your options by telephoning Acas on 0300 123 11 22.

The early conciliation notification form asks for basic contact details about you and the Respondent. You should be careful to include the correct name of the Respondent. If a claim is subsequently made to the tribunal the name of the employer on the ET1 will need to correspond to the name on the early conciliation notification form. If the names are different this could lead to the claim being rejected by the employment tribunal.

Respondents can also use early conciliation and start the process if they believe there is a workplace dispute which is likely to lead to a tribunal claim.

How can early conciliation help?

The benefits of Acas early conciliation are:

  • you can get a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your potential claim, and explore the options for resolving their differences
  • if you can settle your potential claim with the Respondent, this will avoid the time, expense, risk and stress of an employment tribunal claim
  • you are in control of the process and the terms of any settlement can include terms that a tribunal could not make (e.g a reference or an apology)
  • if you are still employed by the Respondent it could increase the chance of avoiding a permanent breakdown of the employment relationship – if that is what you and the Respondent want to achieve
  • many cases can be dealt with relatively quickly compared to a tribunal claim.

What will the Acas Conciliator do?

Acas Conciliators are experienced in dealing with disputes which will mostly take place over the telephone and by email. The Conciliator will also, where appropriate:

  • explain the conciliation process
  • encourage the use of internal procedures such as disciplinary and grievance procedures if available
  • help parties to understand how the other side views the issues
  • discuss any proposals either party has for a resolution
  • discuss the options available e.g. a meeting chaired by the conciliator or the appointment of an independent Arbitrator under the Acas Arbitration scheme in appropriate cases.

What are the boundaries of the Conciliator’s role?

The Conciliator cannot:

  • advise either side whether to accept or make any proposals for resolution
  • take sides and must be totally impartial
  • take a view on the merits of a claim or advise whether a claim should be made.

How long will early conciliation last?

The initial period of early conciliation is intended to be up to 1 calendar month.

However, if both parties agree that longer is needed, the period can be extended by a further 14 days.

If after this period the matter is still not resolved, the Conciliator will bring early conciliation to a close and issue an early conciliation certificate which will include a unique reference number.

What happens if Acas conciliation is successful?

If a resolution is reached through Acas, the Conciliator will record what has been agreed on an Acas document (known as a COT3 used to describe the Acas settlement.

You or your appointed representative on your behalf (e.g. a solicitor) will sign this as a formal record of the agreement. The COT3 will be a legally binding contract that means you will not be able to make a tribunal claim in relation to the settled dispute.

What happens if Acas conciliation is unsuccessful?

The Acas conciliator will issue an early conciliation certificate which will include a unique reference number.  You will then be free to make an employment tribunal claim.

Please see our page employment tribunal claims.

A copy of this formal acknowledgement that early conciliation has finished will also go to the Respondent but only if they have been involved in the process.

If you make an employment tribunal claim, you can still seek a resolution through the Acas Conciliator.

Does early conciliation affect the timescale to make a tribunal claim?

The time limits for bringing an employment tribunal claim are either 3 or 6 calendar months less 1 day depending on the nature of the claim.

To allow sufficient time for early conciliation to take place, changes have been made to the time limits to bring an employment tribunal claim once the early conciliation process has been started. These time limits are known as limitation periods.

When you (or you representative) contact Acas this will pause the time limit for presenting a claim to a tribunal (known as Day A). This pause can be for up to one calendar month, plus a further 14 days if more time is needed. The time limit will start to run again when you (or your representative) receive the Acas early conciliation certificate (known as Day B). If the early conciliation certificate is sent by email it is deemed to have arrived that day and if sent by post it is deemed to have arrived 2 days after it was sent.

For example:

  • Dismissal: 20 June
  • Day A: 22 July
  • Day B: 22 August
  • Expiry of limitation period: 19 September
  • One month after Day B: 22 September
  • Last day to present ET1: 20 October (i.e. the period beginning with the day after Day A and ending with Day B = 31 days)

Once early conciliation has ended, if there is less than 1 month to go of the limitation period, you will have 1 month after Day B to make an employment tribunal claim.

If early conciliation is started after the limitation period has expired any subsequent employment tribunal claim will be out of time.  On this basis, a Respondent may well refuse to engage with the early conciliation process.

Our expertise with employment tribunal claims

Our employment law team have been advising individuals of all levels in relation to Acas early conciliation for years. We are also highly experienced in dispute resolution.

Over the years, we have built an exceptional track record of success in achieving favourable outcomes for our clients, including in relation to complex, high value and contentious employment tribunal claims.

IBB Solicitors is one of the South East’s top ranked legal firms for employment law, having secured Tier 1 ranking in the highly respected Legal 500 client guide. Marc Jones from our employment team has been individually recognised by the Legal 500 as a leading individual in the field of employment law.

Having specialised in employment law for over 20 years, Marc advises and represents individuals from a range of sectors and organisations. He has successfully acted for individuals against large multinationals, small to medium-sized enterprises, public sector bodies and charities.

As well as having extensive experience with Acas early conciliation, Marc is also a qualified workplace mediator, allowing him to offer mediation as a non-confrontational approach to quickly and cost-effectively resolution to workplace disputes.

Contact our Acas early conciliation solicitors today

IBB Solicitor’s employment law specialists represent individuals at tribunals and deal with a range of issues including unfair dismissal, discrimination, whistleblowing, victimisation and more. If you feel that you have been treated unlawfully by your employer, we can offer fast, reliable guidance on whether you may be able to bring a claim against them and the prospects of success.

Contact our specialist Acas early conciliation solicitors today on 03456 381381 or email your details to employmentlaw4you@ibblaw.co.uk and we will get back to you promptly


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