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Website URL : http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2011

Acas conciliation services Q&A

What are my options?

Acas offers Early Conciliation in most employment disputes. We recommend that disputes get resolved at the earliest stage possible to avoid the cost, time and stress of an Employment Tribunal.

  • Settle through Acas: we conciliate in most claims about individual employment rights. In 2012-13 our Pre Claim Conciliation service saw around 75% of cases settled (or withdrawn).
  • Before a claim is lodged with the Tribunal, the claimant has to notify Acas, and we will try to help both parties resolve the dispute. More information about Early Conciliation is available. However, if this doesn't work, we can continue to offer conciliation until the Tribunal hearing.
  • Have it decided by an arbitrator: if you believe you've been unfairly dismissed, or have a complaint under the flexible working regulations, your complaint might be eligible for The Acas Arbitration Scheme. For more details ask your conciliator.
  • Have it decided by an employment tribunal: you can get booklets explaining tribunal procedures from the Employment Tribunal Service or from Employment Service offices, Citizens Advice Bureaux and Law Centres. All Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals are now liable to pay a fee or an application for fee remission. Further information is available from Ministry of Justice - Employment Tribunal guidance.
  • Withdraw: if you no longer wish to continue with a claim you've made to a Employment Tribunal, you should withdraw it by writing to the tribunal. This should be done without delay, as the tribunal may award costs if they think you have acted unreasonably.
  • Settle privately: you can settle the complaint privately in certain circumstances. 

Why choose conciliation?

  • You can get a clearer idea about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and ways of resolving it.
  • You can avoid the time, expense, risk and stress of going to a hearing.
  • Any settlement will be on terms agreed by you, not imposed by a tribunal.
  • Everything can be kept confidential - tribunal hearings are public.
  • The settlement can include things not available at tribunals (for example, a reference).
  • The Employment Tribunal has a discretionary power to award costs against claimants and employers in certain circumstances. From 6th April 2014 the Employment Tribunals will also be able to order employers who lose tribunal claims to pay a financial penalty. The penalty will apply where the tribunal finds that the employer has breached an individual's rights and there has been one or more aggravating features present.

When can Acas get involved?

Acas offers support to promote best practice in the workplace to avoid employment disputes, including training, codes of practice and guidance for employers and employees. We also offer a free Helpline service (0300 123 1100) providing people with free advice.

Unfortunately, sometimes disputes still arise. If you intend to lodge an Employment Tribunal claim, you will first have to notify Acas by completing a simple online form.

If Early Conciliation does not resolve the dispute, parties can lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunal. Acas will be available to offer conciliation services after the Employment Tribunal lodgement form has been submitted, and up to the date of the hearing.

What will the conciliator do?

The conciliator will talk through the issues with both sides to see if a solution can be found. Where appropriate, they will also:

  • explain the conciliation process
  • explain the way tribunals operate, and what they will take into account in deciding the case
  • discuss the options open to you, including arbitration where appropriate
  • help you to understand how the other side views the case, and explore with you how it might be resolved without a hearing
  • tell you about any proposals the other side has for a settlement.

The conciliator will not:

  • make a judgement on the case, or the likely outcome of a hearing
  • advise you whether to accept any proposals for settlement or not
  • act as your representative, take sides, or help you prepare your case.

What happens if I settle the complaint through Acas?

If you settle the complaint through Acas, the agreement will be legally binding. Although agreements do not have to be in writing to be legally binding, the terms of the agreement will be recorded on an Acas form to be signed by both sides as proof of the agreement. If a complaint has been made to a tribunal, we will notify the tribunal office that settlement has been agreed and they will close the case.

What happens if we can't reach agreement?

If you can't reach agreement on a tribunal complaint, and the complaint is not withdrawn, it will be decided by a tribunal. If the claim is of unfair dismissal, or is under the flexible working regulations, it can be decided by an arbitrator if both sides prefer. The formal acknowledgement that Early Conciliation has come to an end will include a unique reference number which
you must provide when submitting your tribunal claim.

What if I have a representative?

If you appoint a representative to act for you, we will conciliate through them, and not deal with you directly. Your representative may agree a settlement on your behalf. As such a settlement would be legally binding, it's important to ensure that your representative fully understands your requirements.

Will talking to Acas affect the tribunal process?

No. It is important to comply with all instructions from the tribunal as they will continue to process the case while conciliation is taking place, and will list the case for a hearing unless they hear it has been settled or withdrawn. Conciliation is completely separate from the tribunal process.