Early Conciliation and Making an Employment Law Claim

25 July 2016

If you are having issues at work or with an employer in England or Wales, you should try to resolve any issues you have with your employer informally first. You can “raise a grievance”, meaning that your employer has to listen to your viewpoint and take action, but if you don’t feel happy with the outcome, an Employment Tribunal may be your only option.

To make an Employment Tribunal claim for almost any reason, you’ll have to start a process called Early Conciliation. This is a process where you and your employer talk separately with an independent Conciliator (a person who acts as a mediator) over the phone, to discuss your issues and the problems, to try to reach a resolution without going to an Employment Tribunal.

This is now a requirement by law and you’ll have to show the Employment Tribunal that you’ve started Early Conciliation before you can go to a Tribunal.

The Early Conciliation Process

The Early Conciliation process is offered to both you and your employer and you don’t have to take part (other than notifying ACAS that you may have an Employment Tribunal claim), but you may find that trying to resolve your issue with your employer before going to a Tribunal will be less stressful, quicker and cheaper for you.

Time Limits for Employment Tribunal Claims

One very big issue you do need to be aware of the fact that there are time limits to making a claim at Employment Tribunal and you’ll need to make sure you factor these in, along with the need to consider Early Conciliation.

These timescales are quite short, with usually only 3 or 6 calendar months less 1 day to bring an Employment Tribunal claim depending on the type of the claim. One key element to Early Conciliation is that the clock stops once you notify ACAS, as long as you notify ACAS before your Tribunal deadline expires. Early Conciliation gives you the breathing room you need to try to resolve the issue with your employer without the distraction of the 3 month time limit.

Once the Early Conciliation process is over, then the clock starts again, and you will have at least one calendar month in which to submit your claim to the Tribunal.

In rare cases, late claims to the Employment Tribunal may be accepted with a very good reason, but you take a very big risk. Make sure you leave yourself enough time and get legal advice from a specialist Employment Law Solicitor as early as possible.

How to Start the Early Conciliation Process

To start the process of Early Conciliation, you must notify ACAS that you may have an Employment Tribunal claim. You can do this in one of two ways. You can go online at ACAS Early Conciliation http://www.acas.org.uk/earlyconciliation or contact ACAS by phone on 0300 123 11 22.

You’ll need to fill in some details about you and your employer. The first thing you must get right, as it can affect your claim, is the correct legal name of your employer. You can find this on your employment contract or wage slip, or look up the company name online with Companies House.gov.uk

You have to notify ACAS unless your claim falls into one of the exemptions below:

Early Conciliation Exemptions

There are five reasons why you won’t need to use Early Conciliation if you are making an Employment Tribunal Claim and they are:

  1. Someone else has already received an Early Conciliation Certificate from ACAS and you are making a claim with them
  2. ACAS is already involved with your dispute because your employer has asked them to be involved
  3. You’ve been dismissed and you are applying for Interim Relief (where you ask an Employment Tribunal to order continuation of employment until the Employment Tribunal Hearing happens)
  4. If ACAS doesn’t have a duty to conciliate on your claim
  5. If you are making a claim against the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service or the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Even though these exemptions apply, you can still choose to use the Early Conciliation process if you want to, but you won’t get the benefit of the extension of time limits for Tribunal claims, unless your claim is part of a multiple claim involving Early Conciliation.

What Happens at Early Conciliation?

Your ACAS Conciliator will explore options of how your dispute could be resolved without going to a Tribunal. This will happen separately from your employer and usually on the phone.

They’ll talk about how the process works, what other methods could be used to resolve the dispute, discuss how the Tribunal works and how they will decide on your claim and how they decide what amount of compensation to award you if you win.

They will also try to help you see your employer’s perspective and work towards a resolution.

They can’t tell you if you should go to an Employment Tribunal or not, nor can they take sides or help you prepare for a Tribunal.

What Happens After Early Conciliation?

After the Early Conciliation process is completed and you do not reach an agreement, ACAS will send an Early Conciliation Certificate. As soon as this is issued, the clock starts again on the 3 month time limit period to make an Employment Tribunal claim, so if you are going to make a claim, you should move as quickly as you can.

You’ll need to complete claim form ET1 and list your ACAS Early Conciliation Certificate number on the claim form.

But if you reach an agreement during Early Conciliation, an ACAS Settlement Form COT3 will be completed. This will form a legally binding agreement between you and your employer and stop you taking any further action at an Employment Tribunal, so you must be sure this is what you want, and get legal advice from an Employment Law Solicitor on whether the wording of the agreement is right for you.

At Co-op Legal Services, our Employment Law Solicitors know that it’s unsettling to be in a dispute with your employer. We can help you understand if you have a claim and give you an expert opinion on what your claim may be worth. We can also take you through the Employment Tribunal process from start to finish.

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