Employment tribunals: Commencing the Acas pre-claim process

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Acas provides help and support to employees who want to make an employment tribunal claim against their employer.  It’s called ‘conciliation’ and you may find it helpful to go through the early stages of Acas conciliation before you start your employment tribunal claim.

This brief guide explains what Acas conciliation is and when and how to use it. Use it alongside our other guides on different aspects of making an employment tribunal claim, which are listed at the end.




What’s the purpose of the Acas early conciliation?

The purpose of the Acas early conciliation process is to enable an independent mediator (or conciliator as Acas calls them) to try to get you and your employer to reach a settlement without having to go to an employment tribunal.  

The early conciliation process is undertaken before you make a full application for your claim to be heard by an employment tribunal. 

With your agreement, the Acas conciliator acts as a broker between the two parties and communicates between the two sides of the dispute (or their legal representatives) in an attempt to get you both to settle.

How do you begin Acas conciliation?

In order to begin the Acas conciliation process, you need to complete what’s called an ‘Early Conciliation Notification Form’.  You can find this on the Acas website together with guidance on how to complete it.

How long is the period of conciliation?

Initially, the time allowed for early conciliation is one month, although if both sides are in agreement, that period can be increased by a further 14 days. 

It doesn’t have to last that long and can be concluded sooner, for example, if it is clear that a settlement can’t be reached by these means.

What happens if early conciliation fails?

If the two parties don’t resolve their differences and don’t settle during this time, the Acas conciliator will close the process and give you, the employee, an early conciliation certificate. 

This certificate will confirm that the early conciliation process was undertaken but not been achieved.

It will include a certificate number that you must use in the form you have to fill in when you are submitting your claim to a tribunal.

(See our practical guide on how to submit an employment tribunal claim.)

You have a choice of whether to continue with Acas conciliation or to instruct your own solicitor to negotiate with your employer on your behalf. (See more on this below)

Are there exceptions to tribunal claim time limits?

 You have one calendar month from the date of the early conciliation certificate, to submit (or ‘file’) your claim to the employment tribunal. 

The only variation allowed is if you began pre-claim conciliation with more than 1 month left on the 3-month overall time limit.  If that’s the case, then you have the remainder of the original time period to submit the claim.

Having said that, however, you don’t want to be caught out by any misunderstandings about time limits at this stage.  We would therefore recommend that you submit your claim well before the end of one month from the date of the conciliation certificate.

Can lawyers help with conciliation?

It is a common misconception that if you are going through Acas, then you do not need a lawyer, because (it’s said) Acas will settle your case out of court for you.

This is not what happens in practice. Acas conciliators do a sterling job for employees but they are not lawyers themselves. They also have a large caseload and no real incentive to get the best possible deal for you – their primary goal is to settle cases, regardless of the settlement amount.

This means that Acas conciliators often act as a go-between, delivering offers and counteroffers to you and your employer. 

What they will not do however is to take detailed instructions from you, advise you regarding strategy and tactics, or put together a hard-hitting legal letter on your behalf. They are very much neutral and your interests would usually be better served if you had a lawyer to represent you.

Next steps

If you would like negotiations between you and your employer to be carried out on your behalf by a fully qualified and experienced employment lawyer, why not try Monaco Solicitors?

We are employment law specialists and only represent employees, so if you’re being badly treated at work and are facing an employment tribunal, then do get in touch.  You will find a friendly yet professional welcome and your options for working with us will be fully explained before you enter into any commitment. Contact us in one of the following ways:

Via our website

By phone on 020 7717 5259 or

Email: [email protected].  


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