Many issues which may lead to disputes can be resolved informally in the workplace between the individual and his immediate line manager. Internal procedures should be in place to deal with more difficult cases, whilst it is widely recognised that employment tribunal action should be very much a last resort.
However, in those instances where a tribunal claim has been (or, in some cases, could be) made, conciliation is offered to both sides with the aim of settling the matter without the need to attend a hearing. It's voluntary but both parties must agree to the process. Although similar to mediation, the term conciliation is used when an employee is making, or could make, a specific complaint against their employer to an employment tribunal. It's unlike arbitration because the conciliator has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, or make decisions or awards.
The process involves an independent Acas conciliator discussing the issues with both parties in order to help them reach a better understanding of each other's position and underlying interest. The impartial conciliator tries to encourage the parties in dispute to come to an agreement between themselves, and so avoid the stress and expense of contesting the issue in Tribunal.
Either party can ask for Acas' free conciliation service before putting in a claim, if the dispute is one that could be taken to a tribunal. However, it is essential that all efforts are made to resolve the issue within the workplace before conciliation may proceed. This service is also automatically offered when an employment tribunal claim is made. You can find out more in our Acas conciliation services Q&A.
What sort of issues cause disputes? - Acas' Chief Conciliator Peter Harwood talks about the service.
Collective conciliation - resolving workplace disputes is a specific term used to refer to talks between representative groups (often trades union) and employers, facilitated by an independent third party. Acas is often brought in to provide conciliation services for this type of situation.
Can Acas help?
Acas may be able to help you with our free conciliation services. You can find out whether this service is available for your situation by contacting your local office.
Want to find out what the conciliation process is all about, then watch our online video to find out more.