Statistical bulletin

Early conciliation and employment tribunal data for England, Scotland and Wales: April 2020 to March 2021

Published

1. Main points

  • The number of individual early conciliation notifications ('EC notifications') peaked in July to September 2020, then decreased each quarter up to January to March 2021.  
  • January to March 2021 had the lowest number of individual EC notifications during April 2020 to March 2021 for employee-led cases, and was the second lowest quarter for employer-led cases.  
  • The number of group cases were also lowest during January to March 2021, although the number of cases within groups remained high during this period.  
  • More than 65% of EC notifications did not progress to employment tribunal during April 2020 to March 2021.   
  • At least 77% of employment tribunal cases received did not go on to have a hearing during April 2020 to March 2021. 

This bulletin includes corrected data for April to December 2020.

2. Early conciliation notifications

When an employee wants to make a claim against their employer at an employment tribunal, in most cases they must notify Acas first. Acas offers early conciliation to try to reach an agreement between the employee and employer and avoid the employee making a claim to an employment tribunal.

In some circumstances, the employer may approach Acas to help resolve a potential dispute. This can also be handled using early conciliation.

EC notifications can be made:

  • by an individual against their employer
  • on behalf of a group against their employer
  • by an employer where a dispute concerning staff requires resolution

Employee-led early conciliation notifications

More than 94% of all EC notifications came from employees from April 2020 to March 2021.

Employee cases in January to March 2021 were split quite evenly between 'fast track', 'standard track' and 'open track', whereas in April to June 2020, fast track case numbers were almost double that of either open or standard track case numbers. This gradually evened out across the quarters presented in this bulletin. January to March 2021 is also the only quarter in this bulletin to have higher numbers of open track cases than fast track cases. 

After rising from April to June 2020 into July to September 2020 and then stabilising through October to December 2020, case numbers fell to below April to June 2020 numbers in January to March 2021.  

The number of group cases dropped by 40% in January to March 2021 compared to October to December 2020, following a drop of 25% going from July to September 2020 into October to December 2020. However, the number of individuals in these groups rose by 67% compared to October to December 2020. 

Figure 1: Employee-led individual early conciliation cases by track per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021

Line graph showing early conciliation case numbers from April 2020 to March 2021.

Note: Figure 1 is a visual representation of the data in Table 1. 

Table 1: Employee-led individual early conciliation cases by track per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021

Case type Track Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Jan to Mar 2021 Total Live cases
Individual No track assigned 3,682 4,559 5,473 4,862 18,576  6,704
Fast 10,573 10,371 7,927 6,074 34,945 2,820
Standard 5,539 7,610 7,515 5,355 26,019  2,260
Open 6,003 7,168 7,599 6,444 27,214  3,709
Total 25,797 29,708 28,514 22,735 106,754 15,493

Groups

No track assigned 82 ~ 5 5 92 5
Fast 190 396 197 172 955 62
Standard 90 90 80 56 316 26
Open 712 642 575 276 2,205 225
Total 1,074 1,128 857 509 3,569 318

Claimants within groups above

No track assigned 395 5,541 3,649 193 9,778 ~
Fast 278 7,951 1,553 18,489 28,271 5,845
Standard 27,388 346 692 32 28,458 655
Open 11,380 39,517 10,543 8,709 70,149 ~
Total 39,441 53,355 16,437 27,423 136,656 6,500

Employer-led early conciliation notifications  

Employer-led early conciliation notifications made up less than 4% of EC notifications in January to March 2021, a similar rate to October to December 2020. Standard track cases made up the majority of employer-led cases with more than 60% of cases being standard track across all 4 quarters. Case numbers fell by 25% in January to March 2021, compared to October to December 2020.  

Figure 2: employer-led individual early conciliation cases by track per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021

Line graph showing employer-led early conciliation cases from April 2020 to March 2021.

Note: Figure 2 is a visual representation of the data in Table 2.  

Table 2: Employer-led individual early conciliation cases by track per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021

Track Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Jan to Mar 2021 Total Live cases
No track assigned ~ 18 ~ ~ 18 65
Fast 149 145 135 161 590 109
Standard 502 1,233 800 499 3,034 168
Open 103 201 127 135 566 103
Total 754 1,597 1,062 795 4,208 445

3. Early conciliation notification outcomes

Some EC notifications are not suitable for conciliation and the service is not mandatory so some claimants will refuse the offer.  

Early conciliation cases not progressed to conciliation  

In January to March 2021, 22% of early conciliation cases were closed without parties engaging in early conciliation, down from 24% in October to December 2020. This is the lowest rate across all quarters presented in this bulletin.

Across all 4 quarters, mainly cases with no track assigned did not progress to conciliation. These are where Acas has not been able to get in touch with the claimant to gather enough information to assign a track, so this is to be expected. 

Only 290 fast track cases did not progress to conciliation in January to March 2021. This is a fall of 70% from the previous quarter. Standard and open track cases that did not progress to conciliation also fell in January to March 2021 compared to October to December 2020 by 36% (standard track) and 48% (open track). 

Figure 3: Early conciliation notifications that have not progressed to conciliation by track along with total conciliated case numbers per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021 

Diagram showing the number of cases which did not receive conciliation.

Note: Figure 3 is a visual representation of the data in Table 3.   

Table 3: Early conciliation notifications that have not progressed to conciliation by track along with total conciliated case numbers from April 2020 to March 2021

Track Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Jan to Mar 2021 Total
No track assigned 3,003 3,550 4,107 3,704 14,364
Fast 2,841 2,441 956 290 6,528
Standard 568 1,211 1,315 838 3,932
Open 714 1,007 1,245 647 3,613
Total not conciliated 7,126 8,209 7,623 5,479 28,437
Total closed 26,413 28,912 32,290 24,469 112,084
% closed cases not conciliated 27% 28% 24% 22% 25%

Settlement of early conciliation cases  

Due to the potential time lag between an EC certificate being issued and the corresponding ET1 reaching Acas, these data cannot be accurately reported until after a period of time has elapsed and so are 1 quarter behind all the other statistics in this bulletin.

Almost 70% of cases did not lead to the submission of an ET1 throughout April 2020 to March 2021. Of those with an assigned track, the fast track cases were most likely not to progress to ET1, although there were high rates across all the tracks, with at least 62% of cases not progressing to ET1 for open track cases from April to September 2020. 

Table 4: Early conciliation notifications outcomes from January to December 2020

Track Outcome Jan to Mar 2020 Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Total
No track assigned Settled by Acas ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
  ET1 avoided 3,925 3,010 3,223 3,981 14,139
  % did not progress to ET 82% 80% 71% 73% 76%
Fast Settled by Acas 1,035 1,235 1,384 1,258 4,909
  ET1 avoided 6,969 6,404 6,623 4,879 24,875
  % did not progress to ET 71% 72% 75% 77% 74%
Standard Settled by Acas 1,338 1,367 2,259 1,961 6,925
  ET1 avoided 2,565 2,472 3,882 3,772 12,691
  % did not progress to ET 66% 64% 70% 69% 68%
Open Settled by Acas 1,168 924 1,052 1,259 4,406
  ET1 avoided 3,852 3,256 3,820 4,176 15,104
  % did not progress to ET 63% 62% 62% 67% 63%
Total Settled by Acas 3,541 3,526 4,695 4,478 16,204
  ET1 avoided 17,311 15,142 17,548 16,808 66,809
  % did not progress to ET 70% 69% 70% 71% 70%

4. Employment tribunal claim form (ET1) receipts

If a case is not resolved by early conciliation, the claimant submits an ET1 form to make a claim to an employment tribunal. Conciliation can also be carried out at this stage to try to resolve the case without progressing to tribunal. 

Employment tribunal claim form receipts dropped 13% in January to March 2021, compared to October to December 2020. The highest level of ET1 receipts was received in October to December 2020 with 10,359 cases. This was more than 60% higher than in April to June 2020, the lowest number received during the quarters in this bulletin. The highest proportion of ET1 receipts during all the quarters presented in this bulletin were open track cases, with fast track cases the lowest proportion.   

Figure 4: Employment tribunal claim receipts per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021  

Line graph showing employment tribunal claim receipts per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021.

Note:  Figure 4 is a visual representation of the data in table 5.  

Table 5: Employment tribunal claim receipts per quarter from April 2020 to March 2021 

Track April to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Jan to Mar 2021 Total Live cases
Fast 1,654 2,266 2,339 1,873 8,132 9,220
Standard 2,146 3,222 3,693 3,289 12,350 13,782
Open 2,547 4,085 4,327 3,833 14,792 19,784
Total 6,347 9,573 10,359 8,995 35,274 42,786

5. Employment tribunal claims outcomes

At least 77% of all employment tribunal cases did not progress to a tribunal hearing during all quarters presented here, and this figure stayed relatively stable throughout the year. Open track cases were most likely not to progress to a hearing with fast track cases most likely to progress to a hearing during all of the quarters presented in this bulletin. Acas settled nearly 70% of the cases that did not progress to tribunal in each quarter, with the remaining 30% or fewer withdrawing their case.  

Table 6: Employment tribunal claims outcomes  from April 2020 to March 2021

Track Outcome Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Jan to Mar 2021 Total
Fast Settled by Acas 521 655 793 995 2,964
Withdrawn 350 394 442 538 1,724
% did not have hearing 57% 63% 66% 65% 63%
Standard Settled by Acas 945 1,129 1,521 1,945 5,540
Withdrawn 406 400 420 586 1,812
% did not have hearing 78% 81% 80% 76% 78%
Open Settled by Acas 1503 1,780 1,949 2,393 7,625
Withdrawn 558 532 566 767 2,423
% did not have hearing 89% 91% 86% 85% 87%
Total Settled by Acas 2,969 3,564 4,263 5,333 16,129
Withdrawn 1,314 1,326 1,428 1,891 5,959
% did not have hearing 77% 80% 79% 77% 78%

6. Data correction

Changes to source data

We have updated the data for April to December 2020, first published on 22 June 2021, to mirror the data in the Acas annual report 2020 to 2021.

Although the changes are minimal, this is not outlined in the methodology article. The figures published from this point onwards will be final.

We have made an additional change to the criteria for establishing the base data for table 4. Previously, we did not include non-progressed early conciliation cases that had not used conciliation. To mirror the data in our annual report, we have decided to include these cases, which has increased the number of 'ET1 avoided' cases for all tracks. No other changes have been made. 

Table 6 headers 

The column headers in table 6 were not lined up correctly in the last bulletin, so data was assigned to the wrong quarter. This error has been corrected in the updated table 6 in this bulletin. Other tables were not affected. 

7. Glossary

Conciliation or conciliating

The process of negotiation when an Acas conciliator mediates between parties in an employment dispute to try and reach agreement without going to an employment tribunal.

Conciliator

A government official employed by Acas who mediates or conciliates between parties in an employment dispute.

Early conciliation (EC)

Acas service introduced in April 2014. Voluntary process of conciliating before a formal employment tribunal claim has been submitted with the aim of resolving the case. The prospective claimant submits an EC notification to Acas, usually online, and Acas will then offer them early conciliation.

EC notification

Submission to Acas (usually online) required to begin conciliation.

Employment tribunal (ET)

Court of law charged with hearing cases within employment jurisdictions although cases with monetary value may be heard elsewhere.

ET1

Form used by claimants to make a claim to an employment tribunal. The form is copied to Acas to allow ET1 conciliation to proceed until either the dispute is resolved or a legal judgement is reached. It’s free to submit an ET1.

ET1 avoided

Disputes that, at the time of publication, had led to an EC notification but an ET1 had not been submitted.

Post ET1 conciliation

Acas has a duty to attempt conciliation between the claimant and their employer once an ET1 has been submitted and passed to Acas. If a settlement can be reached or if the claimant agrees to withdraw their claim, the dispute is considered to be resolved. Otherwise it will proceed to an employment tribunal hearing.

Group case

Cases which have been grouped together for conciliation because they are against the same employer and relate to the same dispute. Claimants in groups are the number of claimants represented by these group claims.

Jurisdiction

Legal classification of the type of dispute a claim is made about. One case may contain more than 1 jurisdiction. For example, an unfair dismissal claim may also contain a claim under the Wages Act for unpaid wages. This could be changed in an employment tribunal.

Live case

EC notifications or ET1s still going through the conciliation process.

Track

How Acas loosely classes the complexity of each case, based on the jurisdictions in the ET1 form, or the suggested jurisdictions assigned to EC notifications. The 4 tracks are:

  • fast track – straightforward cases mostly relating to money, such as unpaid wages

  • standard track – cases that are more complicated than fast track and involve unfair dismissal or a related jurisdiction

  • open track – the most legally complex cases with at least 1 type of discrimination or disclosure jurisdiction

  • no track assigned – cases where insufficient information is available to assign indicative jurisdictions (for example, where parties cannot be contacted)

8. Quality

More quality and methodology information is available on the:

  • strengths
  • limitations
  • appropriate uses
  • how the data were created

Find out more in the methodology article and background quality reports