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.
What is the purpose of the ACAS Early Conciliation form?
The purpose of the 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. This has to be done before you can make a full application for your claim to be heard by an employment tribunal. 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 long is the period of conciliation?
Initially, the time allowed for conciliation is 1 month, although if both sides are in agreement, that period can be increased by a further 14 days. If the two parties don’t resolve their differences and settle during this time, the ACAS conciliator will close the process and give you, the employee, a certificate. This document will confirm that conciliation has not be achieved, and permit you to submit a full claim to an employment tribunal.
Are there exceptions to the time limit for submitting a full tribunal claim?
You have one calendar month from the date of the 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 1 month from the date of the conciliation certificate.
Do I need a lawyer?
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 – they are incentivised to simply settle cases, regardless of settlement amount.
This means that ACAS conciliators often act as a go between whereby they will shuttle back and forth delivering offers and counter offers to the 2 parties. 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 in no way are they as good for you as having a lawyer to represent you.