Early Acas Conciliation is a compulsory step (unless an exemption applies) if you want to make an Employment Tribunal Claim. The purpose of Early Acas Conciliation is to give the parties an opportunity to resolve their dispute and avoid a claim being made. If done correctly, it can be a good opportunity to achieve a settlement and avoid a lengthy claim being made. If you present a Tribunal claim without completing Early Acas Conciliation (and no exemption applies) then the Tribunal will reject your claim. An example of an exemption is if you want to claim for interim relief (where there is a very short deadline)
What Is Early Acas Conciliation?
Early Acas Conciliation is a process (usually lasting 6 weeks) where the parties are given an opportunity to resolve their dispute and avoid a Tribunal claim. The process is started by completing a “notification form” on the Acas website. The case will be allocated to a conciliator, who will speak to both sides (on the telephone) to see if there is scope for resolution. The acas conciliation service is free and the main purpose is to try and resolve the dispute or end up with an acas conciliation certificate, which is then needed if you want to purse a claim at the employment tribunal (the acas certificate contains and acas conciliation number that is required when making a claim to the employment tribunal).
Other points about Early Acas Conciliation are:
- Where it is compulsory to contact Acas before making a Tribunal claim, going through the 6-week conciliation process is actually voluntary. You can simply opt to receive your “Acas Certificate,” which will include the reference number that is required for making your Employment Tribunal Claim.
- The process is free.
- It is without prejudice / confidential, meaning the points discussed during conciliation cannot be used by either side if a Tribunal claim is made.
How Does The Conciliation Take Place?
Here is an overview of Acas Conciliation, but a summary of the key steps are:
- You start the process by completing the Acas Notification Form (found on the Acas website).
- As stated, you can either choose to receive the certificate (so you can now make a Tribunal claim) or go through the conciliation process.
- If you opt to actually conciliate, you will be asked a series of questions about the dispute.
- You will then receive an initial call from Acas (if required) to take some additional details before the case is allocated to a conciliator.
- Your case will then be allocated to a conciliator and they will make contact with you (either by telephone or email).
- The conciliatory will speak to both sides to see if the issues can be narrowed and an agreement reached.
Who Should I Conciliate Against?
This is an important point and is often done incorrectly. You must conciliate against each individual/legal entity that you wish to present a claim against. Some common mistakes we see are:
- People conciliate against the wrong legal entity (for example, they get the company name wrong, which is easily done if the identity of your employer is not clear, for example if it is part of a group of companies.
- The wrong address/contact details are used.
- Certain claims (such as discrimination and whistleblowing) can be presented against companies and the individual perpetrator. However, people often want to make a claim against an individual but only carry out Early Acas Conciliation against the company.
- Early Acas Conciliation is either done too early or too late, which has an impact on time limits (see more on time limits below).
When Should I Start Early Acas Conciliation?
The exact timing will sadly depend, but the most important point is not to conciliate too late, because this may result in your claim being out of time.
Calculating time limits in Employment Tribunal Claims is tricky, which is why professional advice is recommended. We have a Time Limit Calculator to help with this and information on Acas Early Conciliation Time Limits.
Do I Need A Lawyer During Early Acas Conciliation?
You are able to carry out acas conciliation without a lawyer, but you are also able to have a professional undertake this process for you. If an agreement is reached, then an agreement called a “COT3” will be used to record the terms of the settlement. A COT3 is a legally binding agreement that is capable of waiving claims you may have had. Some benefits of being represented during the conciliation process are:
- You will be considering making a Tribunal claim and will want to know the legal merits and potential value of your claim.
- Going through the conciliation process, you will want to know what a reasonable settlement may look like so you don’t ask for an unrealistic amount or amount that is too small.
- If you go it alone, you may conciliate against the wrong parties or miss the deadline and prejudice the claims.
- Working with a professional may increase your chances of getting a better offer.
The above is a general overview of Early Acas Conciliation, which can be a complicated process. If you want to know more about the acas conciliation process and how it may impact your situation then please get in contact with us.