Early Conciliation – What is it and how we can help?
However hard we work with our clients to try and resolve workplace issues, there are occasions where an employee decides, for whatever reason, to pursue a complaint or grievance through an Employment Tribunal. This is where ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) become involved.
Since 6th April 2014, before an employee can submit a claim to an Employment Tribunal, they are now required by law, to contact ACAS, in the hope that any disputes can be resolved using the Early Conciliation service provided by ACAS. This service is free and confidential for both employees and employers.
What ACAS will not do is:
- Advise either side as to whether to accept or make any proposals for resolution.
- Take sides, provide representation or prepare a case for tribunal
- Advise on the merits of any claim or advise whether a claim should be made.
If an employee contacts ACAS and wishes to proceed with Early Conciliation, an appointed ACAS Conciliator will explain the Early Conciliation process and take details of the employee’s potential claim against their employer. They will then contact the employer to advise them that a potential claim has been submitted by their employee and to find out how the employer wishes to respond to the claim.
ACAS have one calendar month to see if they can resolve the issues between the parties with a view to avoiding a costly Tribunal hearing although, in limited circumstances, this time limit can be extended. It is important to note that neither party is legally obliged to enter into Early Conciliation and if either party decline to participate then ACAS will issue an Early Conciliation Certificate and, providing that an employee had contacted ACAS initially, they can proceed to issuing a claim through an Employment Tribunal.
If agreement is reached as part of any settlement agreement, then ACAS will draft a COT3, which is a legally binding agreement. This records the terms of any agreement and once signed by both parties an employee is not able to make a tribunal claim in relations to the matters contained in the agreement. If any payment due under a COT3 is not paid it can be enforced in the same way as a tribunal claim.
How HR:4UK can help?
Many employers get extremely anxious and nervous when contacted by ACAS, especially when they are informed that a member of staff or an ex-employee is considering making a tribunal claim against them. In many cases this may be the first time where they have learnt that an employee is making a complaint or grievance against them and we have had clients who have phoned us very upset and distressed when they are first approached by ACAS.
This is where we can help by:
- Representing you in respect of any discussions or negotiations with ACAS
- Review all the evidence available on both sides
- Discuss all available options with you
- Advising you as to the merits of an individual’s claim
- Calculating how much a tribunal would award if the claimant is successful
- Discuss the management time and costs in having to defend a claim if it proceeds to tribunal
- Consider if the complaint or grievance can be resolved informally
- Discuss the merits or otherwise of settling any potential claim
- Advising on the terms of any potential settlement agreement (COT3)
HR:4UK’s advice, policies, procedures, handbooks and contracts of employment are legally compliant and fully comply with all ACAS guidelines. By using our HR advice line and following our advice and recommendations, you greatly reduce the likelihood of receiving a tribunal claim and in the event that you do, you have the reassurance that we will represent you in any dealings with ACAS.
This article is intended as a guide and for general information only and is not a substitute for taking specific legal advice relating to your situation. For specific advice regarding this or any other issue relating to employment law, please do not hesitate to contact us.
A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.