Acas conciliation services Q&A
We've put together a list of questions and answers about our conciliation services to let you know more about how it all works.
What are my options?
If you have a complaint about your employment rights, you have a number of possible options:
- Settle through Acas: we conciliate in most claims about individual employment rights, and the majority are settled (or withdrawn) - we can do this even if no complaint has yet been made to a tribunal.
- Settle privately: you can settle the complaint privately in certain circumstances.
- Withdraw: if you no longer wish to continue with a claim you've made to a 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.
- 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.
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)
When can Acas get involved?
We can get involved as soon as there is a complaint about employment rights, even if there is no complaint to an employment tribunal. Either party may request assistance by contacting their nearest regional Acas office.
If someone makes a complaint to an employment tribunal, the tribunal sends us copies of the papers and we contact both sides to offer conciliation. If you are involved in a tribunal case, you can contact your conciliator by telephoning the number given in the introductory letter from Acas.
Introduction of the Early conciliation bill
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill Makes changes to the employment tribunal process, including providing for prospective claimants to contact Acas before they can begin certain types of employment tribunal proceedings.
This is so that parties can be offered conciliation to attempt to resolve their dispute outside the tribunal system, and introduces a series of reforms to streamline the existing system and encourage employer compliance.
It will include a new discretionary power for an employment tribunal to impose a financial penalty on an employer found to have breached an individual's rights in order to encourage greater compliance with employment obligations.
Further information on the progress of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is available from UK Parliament - Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill 2012-13 .
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. Acas brokered settlements in 'short period' cases are restricted to the matter(s) set out in the original tribunal claim.
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.
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.