Early conciliation is the opportunity to settle a dispute between an employee and an employer without taking the issue to court. If an issue can’t be resolved through the company’s grievance procedure the employee can contact ACAS to lodge a complaint and enter into early conciliation, if agreed by both parties.
During early conciliation, ACAS will act as an independent third party to distinguish what the issues are and to explore options for resolving the differences. If settlement discussions are unsuccessful at the conclusion of early conciliation, the claimant can enter the dispute to an employment tribunal.
Key features of early conciliation/ACAS conciliation:
- It is voluntary – while an employee/prospective claimant is required to contact ACAS before making a tribunal claim, neither party is obliged to take part in conciliation and can stop whenever they wish
- You are in control – agreements are decided by the parties, not imposed by the tribunal and/or ACAS. Agreed outcomes can include things not available at an employment tribunal, such as an employment reference, an apology or the settlement payment to be paid in instalments
- It informs – parties can get a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their case, and can explore the options for resolving their differences
- It saves time and money – if parties can settle their differences, this will avoid the time, expense, risk, and stress of making or defending a tribunal claim or, if a claim has been made, of going to the tribunal hearing
- It is confidential – anything you tell ACAS can only be discussed with the other party if you agree that it will be helpful in trying to settle the matter. Settlement discussions cannot be used by either party at a tribunal hearing. Tribunals are heard in public
- It can restore trust – if the prospective claimant is still employed, it increases the chance of avoiding a permanent breakdown of the employment relationship – if that is what both sides want to achieve