How to resolve a workplace dispute using Acas’ Early Conciliation process
What is an Early Conciliation process?
Early Conciliation is a process which intends to help resolve workplace disputes without the need to go to an employment tribunal.
If you’ve experienced a dispute at work, you’re likely to want to resolve it quickly and without any further stress or legal costs. By using Acas’ Early Conciliation process, you can work together to find a solution acceptable to both parties without the need for an employment tribunal claim (or a hearing, if the claim has already been made).
How does the Early Conciliation process work?
You must contact Acas and start the process by filling out an Early Conciliation form online within the relevant time frame. This time frame varies depending on the type of claim you are bringing, so it’s important to take legal advice on this to ensure you do not miss that deadline. Once that time frame has passed, it’s very likely that you will be prevented from bringing your claim in an employment tribunal and consequently, your employer is not likely to settle that dispute because the risk of you bringing a claim against them will be greatly reduced by the fact that you are out of time to bring your claim.
It’s really important that this form is completed correctly and it can be useful to send a letter to your employer at the same time, setting out your potential claim(s). This letter can then be disclosed to Acas and can be a useful guide for all parties on your position and what you would like to achieve from the Early Conciliation. Both completing the Acas form and drafting the letter to your employer are things that we can help you with.
During Acas’ conversations with the other party, they may be able to reach a compromise. In this case, both parties will sign an agreement setting out the terms of settlement (a COT3). This is a legally binding agreement setting out the terms upon which the parties have agreed to settle the dispute. It is common for an agreed reference to form part of the COT3, as well as a clause setting out that both parties will not ‘bad mouth’ each other and crucially, that you (the employee) will not to pursue any claims against your employer/former employer.
What if we can’t reach an agreement?
If you or your employer don’t want to engage in settlement discussions at all, or, if an agreement cannot be reached, despite attempts being made, Acas will close the process and issue a certificate to confirm that the process has concluded. At this stage, you are free to then submit your claim to the employment tribunal, including your Early Conciliation certificate number issued by Acas.
When should I seek legal advice?
Although you can represent yourself throughout the entire Early Conciliation process and/or process of bringing your claim, we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice as early as possible. The law in this area is not always logical and there is therefore a risk that you could do something, or fail to do something, that could prejudice your potential claim(s).
At Barcan+Kirby, we appreciate that seeking legal advice, especially when you’ve just lost your job or are at risk of losing your job, can be a huge concern. Our employment solicitors are therefore happy to help you as much or as little as you need throughout this process. We strive to provide you with legal guidance that is intelligent, efficient and clear, as well as finding practical, common-sense solutions to your issues whilst maintaining the highest standards of client care.