What is Early Conciliation?
Early conciliation is a process to settle disputes in the workplace without going to an employment tribunal. The early conciliation process is managed by an organisation called ACAS.
Who are ACAS?
ACAS is the government funded (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) that works with both employers and employees to resolve employment relations disputes.
You can find out more at www.acas.org.uk
Early conciliation applies to most employment disputes, including claims for:
- unfair dismissal
- workplace discrimination
- redundancy payments or disputes over selection procedures
- deductions from wages or unpaid notice or holiday pay
- rights to time off or flexible working
- equal pay
How do I start early conciliation?
If you are considering contacting ACAS because you want to pursue a tribunal claim please contact Edapt for advice, assistance and/or representation before taking any action.
The teacher or school employee (the claimant) will need to complete a form which will contain only the name of the employer and their contact details but no information about the potential claim.
A frequent issue in schools’ cases is identifying the correct employer be it the governing body or local authority and ensuring you have the correct contact details. Whilst there is some scope for tribunals to accept claims where the wrong respondent has been named, it is better to ensure it is right rather than relying on the discretion of the tribunal.
If there is more than one potential respondent to the claim, then the teacher or school employee will need to notify ACAS separately about each of them by submitting additional notifications.
This often occurs in cases of discrimination where the school is the employer but a discriminatory act has been committed by another employee. If the respondent (the employer) has already contacted ACAS about the proposed claim then you will not need to notify ACAS. This is one of the few exceptions to the early conciliation process.
Early conciliation: what happens after ACAS has been informed?
Once the notification is made, ACAS will make first contact with you within two days to ensure you consent to them contacting the respondent. First contact will be with you directly whether or not you have named a representative within the notification, though you will be able to ask ACAS to contact your representative to further discussions.
Contact will then be made with the respondent with a view to discussing the potential claim and trying to reach settlement.
If no contact can be made or neither party wants to participate in early conciliation a certificate will be issued permitting the employee to issue a tribunal claim. You will not be able to issue a claim without the certificate.
The process allows an extension of time to issue a tribunal claim provided that the claim was in time to start with. There is a possibility of an extension up to one month and this may be extended further if the ACAS conciliation officer believes that there is a reasonable prospect of settlement. Be aware though that the time limits for bringing a claim are strictly adhered to by the tribunal and the new provisions are not straightforward. If you miss the deadline you may not be able to bring your claim so ensure that you seek advice first.
As this process is compulsory and is free, it could be a useful way to try and resolve your claim early. It is important though that you understand your case and its potential value before entering into an agreement to settle your claim.
Settlements via ACAS known as COT3 Agreements are legally binding once you have agreed to them even over the telephone.
Please note, ACAS are an independent service and do not offer legal advice. They will not advise you as to whether any offer of settlement is appropriate in your case.
We have also published another article on the topic of employment tribunals.
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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.