Statistical bulletin

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

Published

1. Main points

  • There was a 17% increase in early conciliation notifications ('EC notifications') in July to September 2020, compared to March to June 2020
  • The volume of EC notifications then stabilised in October to December 2020, compared to July to September 2020
  • October to December 2020 saw a 69% drop in the number of cases within groups, compared to July to September 2020.
  • Employer-led claims made up fewer than 5% of all EC notifications during April to December 2020.
  • More than 60% of cases did not progress to employment tribunal during April to December 2020.
  • At least 77% of employment tribunal cases received did not go on to have a hearing during 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 /li>

Employee-led notifications

More than 95% of all EC notifications came from employees. Employee cases are split quite evenly across 'fast track', 'standard track' and 'open track', with only 15% of cases having no track assigned in October to December 2020.

Case numbers rose by 15% from April to June 2020 compared to July to September 2020 but stabilised between October to December 2020 at 28,179 cases.

The number of group cases dropped in October to December 2020 by 23%, with a corresponding drop in the number of individuals involved in these groups by 70%.

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

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

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 to December 2020

Case type Track Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Total Live cases
Individual No track assigned 2,961 3,317 4,327 10,605   605
Fast 9,159 9,564 7,696 26,419  4,519
Standard 6,189 8,223 7,979 22,391  4,484
Open 6,897 7,976 8,177 23,050  7,030
Total 25,206 29,080 28,179 82,465 16,638

Groups

No track assigned 83 ~ ~ 90 ~
Fast 193 396 202 791 94
Standard 91 92 80 263 21
Open 716 652 592 1,960 71
Total 1,083 1,140 874 3,104 186

Claimants within groups above

No track assigned 358 5,460 3,569 9,387 10,374
Fast 525 8,136 960 9,621 5,814
Standard 27,764 909 412 29,085 4,197
Open 11,555 39,393 11,124 62,072 17,046
Total 40,202 53,898 16,065 110,165 37,431

Employer-led early conciliation notifications

Employer-led early conciliation notifications made up just 3.3% of EC notifications in October to December 2020, falling 1.4 percentage points from July to September 2020. Standard track cases make up the majority of employer-led cases with 74% of cases being standard track in October to December 2020, followed by fast track cases at 13%. Case numbers rose in July to September 2020 to more than double the number in April to June 2020 but then fell by a third in October to December 2020.

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

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

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 to December 2020

Track Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Total Live cases
No track assigned ~ 18 ~ 18 66
Fast 149 144 136 429 104
Standard 501 1,234 782 2,518 197
Open 103 203 131 437 117
Total 754 1,599 1,049 3,402 484

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 

Of early conciliation cases, around a quarter were closed without parties engaging in early conciliation between April to December 2020. The classification of track that these cases came from varied across the period except that cases with no track assigned were always the highest. These are where Acas has not been able to get in touch with the claimant to assign a track, so this is to be expected.  

Figure 3: Early conciliation notifications that have not progressed to conciliation by track along with total conciliated case numbers

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

Track Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Total
No track assigned 2,954 3,495 4,310 10,759
Fast 2,646 2,393 930 5,879
Standard 441 1,109 1,277 2,827
Open 708 1,031 1,341 3,080
Total not conciliated 6,749 7,938 7,858 22,545
Total closed 26,463 28,968 32,608 88,039
Total as % 26% 27% 24% 26%

Settlement of early conciliation cases

More than 60% of cases did not lead to the submission of an ET1 from January to September 2020. Of those with an assigned track, those from the fast track were most likely to not progress to ET1, with at least 71% of cases from this track not progressing to ET1 during January to September 2020. Open track cases were the least likely to avoid ET1, with a maximum of 56% of cases avoiding ET1 in January to March 2020 and only 49% in July to September 2020.

Table 4: early conciliation notifications outcomes

Track Outcome Jan to Mar 2020 Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Total
No track assigned Settled by Acas ~ ~ ~ ~
  ET1 Avoided 119 90 187 396
  % did not progress to ET 99% 98% 100% 99%
Fast Settled by Acas 1,045 1,028 916 2,989
  ET1 Avoided 4,865 3,892 3,626 12,383
  % did not progress to ET 75% 73% 71% 73%
Standard Settled by Acas 1,330 1,344 1,946 4,620
  ET1 Avoided 2,543 2,022 2,283 6,848
  % did not progress to ET 61% 58% 61% 60%
Open Settled by Acas 1,203 956 978 3,137
  ET1 Avoided 3,488 2,305 2,568 8,361
  % did not progress to ET 56% 49% 50% 52%
Total Settled by Acas 3,578 3,328 3,840 10,746
  ET1 Avoided 11,015 8,309 8,664 27,988
  % did not progress to ET 64% 60% 61% 62%

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.

The highest level of ET1 receipts was received in July to September 2020 with 9,593 cases. This was nearly 40% higher than in either April to June 2020 or October to December 2020. Open track cases represent the highest proportion of ET1 receipts during April to December 2020.  

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

Line graph showing employment tribunal claim receipts per quarter from April to December 2020

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

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

Track April to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Oct to Dec 2020 Total Live cases
Fast 1,635 2,268 1,552 5,454 9,848
Standard 2,151 3,206 2,468 7,825 14,542
Open 2,564 4,119 2,910 9,609 20,533
Total 6,350 9,593 6,930 22,873 45,269

5. Employment tribunal claims outcomes

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 figures in this bulletin.

Of all employment tribunal cases, at least 77% did not progress to a tribunal hearing during January to September 2020. Open track cases were more likely to not progress to a hearing with fast track cases most likely to progress to a hearing during January to September 2020. Acas settled nearly 70% of the cases that didn’t progress to tribunal in each quarter, with the remaining 30% or fewer withdrawing their case.

Table 6: Employment tribunal claims outcomes

Track Outcome Jan to Mar 2020 Apr to June 2020 July to Sept 2020 Total
Fast Settled by Acas 511 639 770 1,920
Withdrawn 346 389 434 1,169
% did not have hearing 57% 62% 65% 62%
Standard Settled by Acas 935 1,107 1,506 3,548
Withdrawn 400 388 414 1,202
% did not have hearing 78% 81% 81% 80%
Open Settled by Acas 1,482 1,742 1,918 5,142
Withdrawn 550 528 561 1,639
% did not have hearing 89% 90% 85% 88%
Total Settled by Acas 2,928 3,488 4,194 10,610
Withdrawn 1,296 1,306 1,410 4,012
% did not have hearing 77% 80% 78% 78%

6. 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) 

7. 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