A better way to resolve workplace disputes
Early Conciliation is a process of solving disputes between an employee and their employer, and the majority of prospective Claimants must contact ACAS before they can present a claim to the Employment Tribunal.
We can help you by undertaking an initial review and assessment of your prospects of succeeding in pursuing or defending a claim. We can also value your claim by producing a Schedule of Loss or a Counter Schedule of Loss which sets out what you could realistically claim at the Tribunal.
Additionally, we will be able to assist you or conduct settlement negotiations via ACAS or directly with the other side.
Important things to consider:
- You may decide Early Conciliation is appropriate if you want to avoid the cost and time of going to Tribunal.
- Early Conciliation generally runs for one calendar month. However, a discretionary extension of 14 days is permitted if ACAS feels that there is potential to achieve a settlement.
- The conciliator cannot advise either side on what to accept or which proposals to make, nor can they take sides and help either party prepare a case for the tribunal or a defence to a claim.
The main features of Early Conciliation
It is voluntary
Whilst it’s a requirement for an employee/prospective Claimant to contact ACAS before making a Tribunal claim, neither party has an obligation to take part in conciliation and can stop whenever they wish.
You are in control
Agreements are decided by the parties, not imposed by the Tribunal and/or ACAS. Agreed outcomes can include things not available at an Employment Tribunal, such as an employment reference, or an apology, or the settlement payment to be paid in instalments.
It informs both parties
Parties can get a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their case. This enables them to explore the options for resolving their differences.
It saves time and money
If parties can settle their differences, this will avoid the time, expense, risk, and stress of making or defending a tribunal claim or, if a claim has been made, of going to the Tribunal hearing.
Anything you tell ACAS can only be discussed with the other party if you agree that it will be helpful in trying to settle the matter. Settlement discussions cannot be used by either party at a Tribunal hearing. Tribunals are heard in public and decisions are published on the government website.
It can restore trust
If the prospective claimant is still employed, it increases the chance of avoiding a permanent breakdown of the employment relationship – if that is what both sides want to achieve.
Frequently Asked Questions
To explore ways in which they can resolve the potential claim, the conciliator will talk through the issues with the employer and the employees or their representatives separately.
Mostly this will take place over the telephone.
The conciliator will also, where appropriate:
- Explain the conciliation process;
- Encourage the use of internal procedures, such as, disciplinary and grievance procedures, if available;
- Explain the way Tribunals set about making their decision and what things they take into account;
- Explain how Tribunals decide what to award;
- Discuss the options available;
- Help parties to understand how the other side views the issues; and
- Discuss any proposals either party has for a resolution.
The ACAS Conciliator cannot:
- Know what the outcome of a Tribunal hearing would be if it went ahead;
- Advise either side whether to accept or make any proposals for resolution;
- Take sides, represent either party or help prepare either a case for Tribunal or a defence to a claim; and
- Cannot take a view on the merits of a claim or advise whether a claim should be made.
When a resolution is reached, the ACAS Conciliator will record what has been agreed on an ACAS Settlement form, known as a COT3. Both parties will sign this as a formal record of the agreement. The COT3 is a legally binding enforceable contract.
It is not always possible to reach an agreement as not every party wants to take part and some parties cannot settle their differences. If Early Conciliation has not been successful, prospective claimants will be provided with a unique reference number at the conclusion of the Early Conciliation process which must be entered on the Employment Tribunal claim form when a claim is submitted.