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Early Conciliation

The free, fast and less stressful alternative to an employment tribunal for resolving workplace disputes

Early Conciliation is now available for anybody thinking about lodging an Employment Tribunal claim. Contacting Acas will be a required step from 6 May.

At Acas, our advice is always that it is best for employers and employees to resolve disputes as early as possible. Reaching a settlement through conciliation is quicker, cheaper and less stressful for all concerned than a tribunal hearing.

The Early Conciliation process

First step: Early Conciliation notification form

If you intend to lodge an Employment Tribunal claim, you will first have to notify Acas by completing a simple Early Conciliation notification form.

Early Conciliation infographic Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
What happens next?

After a form is submitted it will automatically be acknowledged via email if an email address is provided, or in the post if not. Acas will then contact the potential claimant or representative within two working days of receiving the form. We will gather basic information on the dispute itself and provide information about Early Conciliation. The case will then be passed to a conciliator who will aim to make contact with both parties and talk through the issues to see if a solution can be found.

More information on Early Conciliation

The pdf  Early Conciliation explained leaflet [128kb] covers how a request for Early Conciliation is made, how Early Conciliation can help, how long it lasts, what happens if conciliation is successful and what happens if an agreement isn't reached during the process. Find out about the process of reaching a settlement from the pdf  Early Conciliation flowchart [17kb].

Find out more about conciliation and how it works from the Acas conciliation services Q&A.

Find out more about how much time and money can be saved by considering conciliation as an alternative to the Employment Tribunal from our infographic (available to view on the left).

Watch Acas Conciliator Andrew Cowler talk about Early Conciliation 

word  Acas Early Conciliation transcript [26kb]

What are the benefits of Early Conciliation?

  • Using Early Conciliation will save people the time, cost and anxiety of facing an Employment Tribunal.
  • Conciliators will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and ways of resolving it.
  • Independent research has found that the average cost to an employer of resolving a case through Pre Claim Conciliation (the forerunner to Early Conciliation) is just £475, with employers spending on average one day on a claim, compared to an average of £3700 and four days for an Employment Tribunal.
  • Early Conciliation gives both parties up to a calendar month to explore resolving their dispute using the services of an Acas conciliator. It can be shorter, or up to 14 days longer according to need.
  • When Early Conciliation has finished you will have at least one calendar month in which to submit a tribunal claim.
  • It's confidential - nothing you tell us will be passed on to anyone else unless you agree. Most tribunal proceedings are public.
  • It's voluntary - both parties must agree to take part before the process can start, and either can change their mind at any time.
  • It's not an "either/or" option - if you can't reach an agreed outcome you can still to go to a tribunal. But Acas will continue to offer support to find a resolution until the Tribunal hearing itself.
  • It's independent - Acas doesn't represent either employers or employees nor are we part of the Tribunal. Our expert conciliators don't take sides or make judgements. 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.

What type of issues will Early Conciliation help resolve?

Early Conciliation can help resolve the majority of workplace disputes which may lead to an employment tribunal, including:

  • unfair dismissal claims
  • workplace discrimination
  • redundancy payments or disputes around selection procedures
  • deductions from wages or unpaid notice/holiday pay
  • rights to time off or flexible working
  • equal pay.

After Early Conciliation is introduced, anybody who wishes to lodge a claim with an Employment Tribunal will have to provide an Acas Early Conciliation Reference Number. There are a limited number of exemptions that may apply, and the Employment Judge can decide whether they are relevant. People can always notify Acas first, and we will try to help find a resolution.

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We will be providing regular updates on Early Conciliation and what it will mean for employers via our popular e-newsletters. Register for these updates and Sign up for Acas news and notifications.

Also if you work for a trade union we will be including updates on Early Conciliation in our Trade Union update. Sign up for the free Acas Trade Union e-newsletter and other Acas news.

Other dispute resolution and advisory services available from Acas

Related Acas press releases and media coverage on Early Conciliation

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