Pre-claim conciliation - a free Acas service
Where a problem or disagreement in the workplace is likely to lead to a tribunal claim, Acas will often be able to offer free and impartial pre-claim conciliation (PCC).
The aim of this service is to help employers and employees to find a solution that is acceptable to both, and avoid the costs, stress and time associated with an employment tribunal.
The Dispute Resolution Review, published in 2007 highlighted the benefits for both employers and employees if workplace disputes are resolved swiftly and with minimal formality before they escalate into litigation. Our pre-claim conciliation service was expanded in April 2009 to help achieve that, and in 2012 we successfully helped over 13,000 employees and employers resolve their disputes through PCC.
What kind of problems can Acas help with?
Our pre-claim conciliation service is available for any type of workplace issue that could turn into an employment tribunal claim, including disputes over:
- unfair dismissal
- all forms of workplace discrimination
- redundancy payments or selection procedures
- deductions from wages or unpaid notice/holiday pay
- rights to time off or flexible working
- equal pay.
As of 29th July 2013 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.
Introduction of Early conciliation in 2014
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 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 service will be called Early Conciliation.
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 also includes 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.
Bringing workplace disputes to life
which shows an Acas conciliator defusing a dispute using pre-claim conciliation.
explain the benefits of pre-claim conciliation.
A few facts to consider
- Employment tribunal cases typically take many months before being heard
- Even if you're the winning party, you don't always get what you want
- Lengthy tribunal litigation can have a major (and costly) impact on productivity and employee engagement in the wider workplace
- Many employees who are involved in tribunal claims find their career prospects and earning potential reduced, and some suffer stress-related illnesses.
What are the benefits of pre-claim conciliation?
- It works quickly - cases resolved in pre-claim conciliation take, on average, less than four weeks to reach a conclusion
- It happens early - so there's a better chance of avoiding a permanent breakdown of the employment relationship
- It takes up less of your time - there's no need to fill in forms or get witness statements: it's just about talking the problem through and looking for a solution
- It's confidential - nothing you tell us will be passed on to anyone else unless you agree
- It's impartial - we don't make judgements on the rights and wrongs of the matter in dispute, or impose outcomes the parties don't want
- It's voluntary - both parties must agree to take part before the process can start, and you can change your mind at any time
- It's not an "either/or" option - if you can't reach an agreed outcome in pre-claim conciliation you are still free to go to a tribunal
- It's flexible - we try to help you settle your differences on your own terms, so that you own the outcome
- It's independent - Acas doesn't represent either employers or employees, nor are we part of the Tribunal: our role is simply to help people find a solution
- It's professional - Acas are the experts in helping people deal with problems at work
- It's free.
Who can ask for pre-claim conciliation?
- Employees (and some other workers who have legal employment rights) can apply directly for the service
- Employers - the service is available to help everyone from HR professionals to owner/managers of small firms without specialised HR resources
- Professional advisers or representatives - it doesn't matter whether you're representing an employee or and employer, or whether you're an accountant, consultant, solicitor, or employment specialist: if your client has a relevant employment relations problem you can ask for pre-claim conciliation on their behalf
- Trade unions and voluntary advice agencies can ask for pre-claim conciliation on behalf of their members or clients.
In short, pre-claim conciliation can be requested by anyone who is or might be involved, or advising people who are involved, in a workplace dispute. All we ask of you is that:
- you've already tried to resolve the problem in question without external help, for instance by making use of workplace discipline, grievance or appeal procedures
- you believe the dispute is likely to end in a tribunal claim if you don't get help to resolve it
- you are prepared to discuss the problem in good faith with a view to finding a solution.
How does pre-claim conciliation work?
When you ask for pre-claim conciliation, we will try to make things as simple as possible from the very beginning. We will put you in touch with one of our specially trained pre-claim conciliators who will first talk through the problem with you and answer any questions you have, so that you fully understand the situation and the different courses of action available to you.
If you want to go ahead, the conciliator will then invite the other party to discuss the issues which you and they are facing.
The dialogue will be as flexible as necessary. Some negotiations are comparatively straightforward. In others the conciliator will have to help each party see the other's point of view and may suggest some options that might work to get matters moving towards resolution. As the discussion progresses, the conciliator will try to find a mutually acceptable way forward. If the parties can agree a basis for settlement, the conciliator will also offer to help them to record the terms in a binding written agreement.
What will all this cost?
Absolutely nothing, our pre-claim conciliation services are completely free of charge.
How do I ask for pre-claim conciliation?
Our pre-claim conciliation services can be requested by calling the Acas helpline on 08457 47 47 47.