ACAS Early Conciliation Service – Compulsory from May 2014

What will be the key benefits of Early Conciliation?
  • Using Acas Early Conciliation could help you avoid going to an employment tribunal which can be costly, stressful and time-consuming.
  • ACAS expert conciliators are impartial, professional and generally valued by the people that they help.
  • Their service will provide up to date awareness of employment law and good conciliation skills.
  • Without evidence of contact with ACAS (through a certificate), the tribunal service will automatically reject most applications to make a tribunal complaint
  • The service is free.
What type of issues will Early Conciliation help resolve?

Early Conciliation will help resolve the majority of workplace disputes which may lead to an employment tribunal, including:

  • unfair dismissal claims
  • workplace discrimination
  • redundancy payments or disputes around selection procedures
  • deductions from wages or unpaid notice/holiday pay
  • rights to time off or flexible working
  • equal pay.
How will Early Conciliation work?

Once Acas receives a request for Early Conciliation they will attempt to phone the person making the claim within one working day. In that phone call they will clarify any details on the application form, gather basic information on the dispute itself and give the person a fuller understanding of the service. Once this has been done the case will be passed on to a Conciliator who will aim to make contact with both parties within one working day of receiving the case.

Why choose conciliation?
  • You can get a clearer and impartial idea about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and ways of resolving it.
  • You can avoid the time, expense, risk and stress of going to a tribunal hearing
  • Any settlement will be on terms agreed by you, not imposed by a tribunal
  • Everything can be kept confidential – whereas tribunal hearings are normally open to the public
  • The settlement can include things not available at tribunals (for example, a reference)
What will the conciliator do?

The conciliator will talk through the issues with both sides to see if a solution can be found. The Conciliator has a month to attempt to resolve the dispute. If all parties agree this may be extended by a further period of up to 2 weeks, providing that the Conciliator reasonably believes that a settlement is possible in that time scale. There is only one extension of time allowed.

Another important aspect of the process is the impact it has on the time limit for presenting an employment tribunal claim – three months for most types of complaint. To encourage parties to take up Conciliation, the relevant time periods are suspended (i.e. the clock stops) once stage 1 has been complied with – to allow conciliation to take place. However, prospective claimants will remain responsible for ensuring they present claims to a tribunal within the relevant statutory time limit if the attempt at Conciliation is subsequently unsuccessful.

Where appropriate, the ACAS conciliator will also:

  • explain the conciliation process
  • explain the way tribunals operate, and what they will take into account in deciding the case
  • discuss the options open to the claimant, including ACAS arbitration where appropriate
  • help callers to understand how the other side views the case, and explore  how it might be resolved without a hearing
  • tell the caller  about any proposals the other side has for a settlement

The conciliator will not:

  • make a judgement on the case, or the likely outcome of a hearing
  • advise whether to accept any proposals for settlement or not
  • act as a representative, take sides, or help prepare the case
What happens if I settle the complaint through Acas?

If you settle the complaint through Acas, the agreement will be legally binding. Although agreements do not have to be in writing to be legally binding, the terms of the agreement will be recorded on an Acas form to be signed by both sides as proof of the agreement. Acas brokered settlements in these ‘short period’ cases are restricted to the matter(s) set out in the original tribunal claim.

If a complaint has been made to a tribunal, ACAS will notify the tribunal office that settlement has been agreed and they will close the case.

What happens if the two sides can’t reach agreement?

If you can’t reach agreement on a tribunal complaint, and the complaint is not withdrawn, it will be decided by a tribunal. If the claim is of unfair dismissal, or is under the flexible working regulations, it can be decided by an ACAS arbitrator if both sides prefer. Where Conciliation is refused or is unsuccessful, the prospective claimant is issued with a certificate confirming that Acas notification has been complied with. This will be needed to make a tribunal application.

What if I have a (legal) representative?

If you appoint a representative to act for you, ACAS will conciliate through them, and not deal with you directly. Your representative may agree a settlement on your behalf. As such a settlement would be legally binding, it’s important to ensure that your representative fully understands your requirements.

Will talking to Acas affect the tribunal process?

No. It is important to comply with all instructions from the tribunal as they will continue to process the case while conciliation is taking place, and will list the case for a hearing unless they hear it has been settled or withdrawn. Conciliation is completely separate from the tribunal process.

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