ACAS Early Conciliation was implemented in spring 2014 further to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

It is a process that can allow for exploration and facilitation of a settlement of an employment dispute.

It is mandatory for an employee/potential Claimant to have used ACAS Early Conciliation if he/she wishes to bring an employment claim in the Employment Tribunal as an employment claim (and ET1) cannot be accepted by the Tribunal system without evidence of this process being complied with and the requisite certificate number.

In practice, we keep finding employees and Claimants are unclear as what ACAS Early Conciliation actually is; how to engage in it; when to do this; how to conclude this and what to do next.

ACAS Early Conciliation requires an employee/potential Claimant to complete and submit an Early Conciliation notification form to ACAS. There is no requirement to be represented with this form however some information on this form is critical and can affect the basis of your claim and legal arguments going forward. For the more cautious potential Claimants, we recommend you take advice with a potential employment dispute and ACAS Early Conciliation at an early stage.

Upon submission of the notification form you will be contacted by ACAS who in turn will take further instructions from you including your settlement proposals prior to contacting the employer/previous employer and potential Respondent. Whilst you are not required to have legal advice at this stage; in reality it is imperative that you have taken employment law advice as to your legal position, potential claims, prospects of success and values of compensation or you will have none or little basis to advance any legal argument which is ultimately needed for the purposes of securing any financial settlement.

The timing of submitting the form and engaging in the Early Conciliation process is critical. Many employment claims have a three month time limit to issue the claim before it expires. Early Conciliation once engaged “stops the clock” on this time limit and provides a minimum of one calendar month for the purposes of issuing the claim.

From our experience, many potential Claimant’s engage in this process too early then lose out on the ability to have around 4 months (as opposed to 3) to explore settlement prior to having to issue claims and commit to litigation and the costs associated with this.

We have also seen other potential Claimant’s seek to rely on the potential to “stop the clock” by submitting the form on a whim and without any legal advice. The consequences have included: getting the timing of it badly wrong; being un-prepared for legal argument and settlement proposals; and having no plan for next steps when the employer or potential Respondent rejects settlement offers. Potential Claimants have then found themselves on the receiving end of ACAS suddenly concluding the Conciliation process sooner than they anticipated and no clear strategy for next steps.

If Early Conciliation results in settlement dialogue, it’s likely that you will need advice and representation with negotiations and possibly on the terms of a settlement agreement.

If Early Conciliation fails to achieve a settlement, it’s likely you will also need to fully understand your legal position, options and next steps.

Farleys Solictors LLP are experts in dealing with ACAS Early Conciliation for employees and can provide advice and guidance on the process; how it works in practice; and can represent you during this and up to and including a settlement agreement or any Employment Tribunal proceedings.

Most importantly, our HR and employment law team know how to use and manipulate the ACAS Early Conciliation mechanism to a particular employee’s/Claimant’s advantage.

It is these skills and knowledge that are fundamental to being ahead of the game with an employment dispute.

For more information about ACAS Early Conciliation, please contact Farleys HR and Employment law team on 0845 287 0939 or email us today.