Early conciliation

09 July 2019

When a dispute occurs between you and an employee, your staff can seek a resolution at an employment tribunal.

However, before the dispute can reach the tribunal stage, individuals must contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and begin early conciliation.

The process for early conciliation has been explained in our guide below. Read on to learn what it means, the time limits for making a claim, and how it can help your business.

What is early conciliation?

Acas early conciliation is a mandatory process a claimant (most commonly the employee) must go through prior to raising a claim before an employment tribunal.

The procedure is designed to try and avoid the dispute going to a full tribunal hearing, either by resolving the dispute, or agreeing early conciliation settlements.

Acas early conciliation time limits

From the time a claim form is submitted, there are six weeks to reach an agreement, or an acas early conciliation certificate will be issued.

Alternatively, this will be issued at any point in the 6 weeks that it becomes clear no resolution is possible.

Most tribunal claims must be made within three months of the incident prompting the claim happening. Under the acas early conciliation rules, once an application for the early conciliation scheme has been made, the time limit for bringing the claim before the employment tribunal is paused, until the conciliation process is over.

The process can end either due to agreement, non-engagement with the process or the time limit expiring. To calculate then what the new deadline is for the claim, an early conciliation calculator, or tribunal limit calculator, can be used.

The early conciliation procedure

An acas early conciliation form must be completed in order to start the process. The form is available on their website or through their helpline.

An acas conciliator will be allocated to the case, and their role is to contact both parties to the dispute to see if resolution is possible.

They act as a neutral go-between for the parties, working confidentiality to try and reach an agreement.

If the conciliator is unable to contact the employer, such as when the employer refuses early conciliation, a certificate may be issued without the employer knowing (one will only be sent to the employer if they have had contact with the acas conciliator). This puts you at risk of not having any warning before a tribunal claim comes to you.

Once a certificate has been issued, under the acas early conciliation rules the party looking to bring the claim can then submit an employment tribunal claim, providing the certificate number as evidence of the process they’ve gone through.

Advantages of early conciliation

Early conciliation can be a lot less time consuming than preparing for, and attending, a tribunal hearing. It may also be cheaper, especially if a settlement is reached, as there is no charge for acas arranging this.

It may also help repair any rifts at work and avoid the permanent breakdown of the working relationship.

In situations where the claimant is still under employment this can restore trust and help with retention.

There aren’t really any disadvantages of early conciliation, as acas early conciliation doesn’t cost anything.

An explanation of exemptions

There’ll be instances where employees will be exempt from taking part in the Acas procedure and may instead submit a claim directly to an employment tribunal.

These are as follows:

  • When employees include their claim on the same form as another employee who’s already carried out the process.
  • When employees can prove the employer has already contacted Acas.
  • When an employee is making a claim for interim relief.

Expert support on early conciliation with Peninsula

Sometimes disputes occur between you and an employee, and your staff might want to resolve this at an employment tribunal. Before they do that, they need to start an early conciliation process.

Being active in the process isn’t necessary, but can save you a lot of time and money by avoiding an employment tribunal.

Let Peninsula help you with access to 24/7 HR advice. Our team can provide legal advice on how to handle the process, or provide tribunal representation if the dispute progresses.

And if you’re not yet a client, you can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420.

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