Anyone who has read my blog on the Employment Tribunal Process will have seen reference to ACAS Early Conciliation. Read on for more information about ACAS and Early Conciliation.
Who are ACAS?
ACAS stands for Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service and is a free, independent service available to both employers and employees to attempt to settle a workplace dispute.
What do ACAS do?
Funded by the Government, ACAS is a free and independent body that offers various employment law services to both employers and employees. As suggested by the name, they offer advisory, conciliatory and arbitration services. They also offer workplace training courses.
You may have heard of ACAS Early Conciliation. Early Conciliation is a process you must go through prior to bringing a claim against your employer.
ACAS have developed various Codes of Practice to set out what is considered best practice for handling certain situations, such as disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as Settlement Agreements. ACAS Codes of Practice are not legally binding; however, they will be taken into account by the Employment Tribunal when considering the level of compensation to award an employee.
If an employee has not complied with the relevant Code of Practice, their compensation could be reduced by up to 25%. Conversely, if an employer has failed to comply with the relevant Code, an Employment Tribunal can increase an employee’s compensation award by up to 25%.
Conciliation is a process where an independent third party (a conciliator) will be appointed to your dispute. The conciliator acts as a neutral middleman and will discuss the dispute with you and then with your employer with a view to negotiating a settlement.
You must notify ACAS if you are intending to issue a claim against your employer and go through the Early Conciliation process. Shortly after you have notified ACAS, you will be assigned a conciliator who will ask for details of your employment, the claim you intend to bring and the outcome you are seeking.
The conciliator will then ask your permission to discuss the matter with your employer. If you do not give your consent for this, the conciliator will issue you with an Early Conciliation certificate. There will be a number on that certificate which you require to submit your claim to the Employment Tribunal.
If you do give your consent for the conciliator to contact your employer, they will do so, ascertain their view of the dispute and report back to you. The conciliator will see if it is possible to reach a settlement and will conduct the negotiations. The Early Conciliation process will normally only last for one month, however, if the conciliator believes you are near a settlement, this can be extended by a further two weeks.
If a settlement is agreed, the conciliator will prepare a COT3 agreement which is legally binding and records the settlement. If an agreement is not reached, you will be issued with an Early Conciliation certificate which allows you proceed to issuing a claim at the Employment Tribunal.
During this process, the assigned conciliator will not be able to provide you with advice or tell you how strong or weak your claim may be. They are there to inform you of possible options and try to settle the dispute without the need for a claim to be issued.
You may have heard the term ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’, being an alternative to issuing proceedings to resolve a dispute, and arbitration is one of those options. Arbitration can be used when conciliation has failed to resolve a dispute between an employer and employee, however it is not appropriate to use in every circumstance.
An independent third party, the arbitrator, will be brought in with a view to reaching a solution between the employer and employee. Both parties will submit their case to the arbitrator who will then review all of the facts and evidence and make a decision as to which party is successful. The arbitrator’s decision is final and legally binding.
Do I have to use ACAS?
If you want to bring a claim against your employer in the Employment Tribunal, you must notify ACAS by using their Early Conciliation process. You do not have to actively engage in the process, but at the very least, you must notify them of your intention.
You need to be aware of time limits. You have three months less one day from the incident you are complaining of to notify ACAS of your claim by way of their Early Conciliation Service.
How Can Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Help You?
If you would like assistance using ACAS or you have been through the Early Conciliation Process and have not achieved a resolution, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01522 440512 for an initial free, no obligation, telephone conversation. Alternatively, if you would like more information about how we can help with your employment dispute, please visit our website at https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/employment-tribunal-claims/
Managing Director, Specialist Employment Solicitor