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Early Conciliation Update 1: April - June 2014

Quarter One: April-June 2014

Published 3 September 2014

Early Conciliation was introduced on 6 April to provide an opportunity to resolve workplace disputes without the need to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

BIS asked Acas to provide the service, building on the success of Pre-Claim Conciliation and extending the provision to all those who are considering a claim to a tribunal.

This update provides information on the number of notifications received during the first quarter of operation, on the take up of Early Conciliation and an indication of what had happened to cases at the end of the first quarter. It should be noted that:

  • Although the legislation1 which introduced Early Conciliation came into effect on 6 April, notification to Acas before lodging a claim with the Employment Tribunal was voluntary until 5 May. 
  • Early Conciliation is the first step in helping to resolve workplace disputes without the need to make an Employment Tribunal claim, but Acas conciliation remains available throughout the lifetime of any Employment Tribunal case that may subsequently be initiated.
  • The detailed picture on Early Conciliation and the subsequent stages will develop as more cases go through the system and we undertake surveys of employers and employees.

EC notifications 6 April 2014 - 30 June 2014

EC NotificationsAprilMayJuneTotal
Employee Notifications3,7066,3196,58016,605
Employer Notifications127225188540

This table shows that notifications were received at a rate of approximately 1,000 per week during April and this rose to around 1,600 once notification became mandatory in May. This is in line with the numbers of notifications we expected to receive.

Take Up of Early Conciliation

Once an Early Conciliation notification is made to Acas, there is an automatic pause in the legal time limit within which the claimant would need to bring a tribunal claim should they decide to do so. This one month pause ensures that there is time for discussions about settlement to take place. During this time Acas has a statutory duty to offer conciliation, but the parties do not have to accept the offer.

EC Take UpNumberPercent
Offer of conciliation rejected by employee1,1227%
Offer of conciliation rejected by employer
(where employee accepted)

This table shows that relatively few of those involved reject the offer of Early Conciliation completely, but that a small proportion of both employees and employers do so. In most cases parties are willing to talk about the issues and this creates a better understanding of the dispute which assists in resolving the matter during Early Conciliation or later in the process.

Early indications of outcomes

The formal Early Conciliation period ends either when the dispute is settled, or when it becomes apparent that the parties are not willing to settle.2

Settlements achieved through Acas are formalised in a document known as a COT3. At the end of the first quarter, 1,873 cases resulted in a COT3. This is 16.5% of the total of 11,355 cases that ended their Early Conciliation period in the quarter.

The claimants in cases that do not result in a COT3 receive a certificate which is evidence of notifying Acas about a potential Tribunal Claim. Various outcomes are possible for cases which do not result in a COT3:

  • After submitting their notification and having initial discussions, some employees decide not to take their matter further. In the first quarter, 19% of those receiving a certificate told Acas that they had decided not to take any further action. This is an informal indication only, and some may change their minds.
  • Some cases are resolved informally without the need for a COT3 following Acas involvement.3
  • In some cases conciliation continues once the formal Early Conciliation period has ended, and a settlement is reached later, which may be formalised in a COT3.4
  • Some employees go on to lodge a Tribunal claim. Information about the proportion that do so and what then happens in these cases will be important in judging the impact of Early Conciliation. It is as yet too early to provide data on this, as in many Quarter 1 cases there is still time for the claimant to submit a claim and for the details of the claim to reach Acas.

In line with its normal practice, Acas plans to survey Early Conciliation service users to gain customer feedback and support continuous improvement. The surveys will not be carried out until the service has been in place for sufficient time to provide a reliable picture. Once available, the results will be published.


  1. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERRA) 2013.
  2. This is subject to a maximum period of one month plus 2 discretionary weeks.
  3. It is currently too early to say what proportion of cases have been resolved informally.
  4. It is currently too early to say what proportion of cases will be resolved with a COT3 after the Early Conciliation period has ended.