ACAS stands for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. They are an independent public body that receives funding from the government.
One aspect of the services they provide is aiming to resolve disputes and prevent claims proceeding to an Employment Tribunal, they do this via early conciliation or pre-claim conciliation (PCC).
What is ACAS Pre-claim Conciliation?
Early conciliation is a step employees’ need to take before they submit a claim against their employer to an Employment Tribunal.
Employees are required to inform ACAS of their intention to bring a claim. ACAS’s role in early conciliation is to try and bring the matter to a close without it proceeding to an employment tribunal, usually through a settlement.
Why is it important?
Early conciliation is important because it is an opportunity to resolve a dispute where internal proceedings such as the grievance procedure have not managed to address the issue.
Whether you want to take part in early conciliation or not, you must inform Avensure if you receive contact from an ACAS conciliator.
Is early conciliation mandatory for employees?
Informing ACAS of their intention to bring a claim is mandatory but there is no obligation to take part in early conciliation.
Employees will not be able to submit a tribunal claim without having first informed ACAS of their intentions.
Is it mandatory for employers?
No. In the same way that it is not mandatory for employees, employers do not have to take part but as stated above, you do need to inform Avensure if you receive a request to take part in early conciliation.
What does the early conciliation process involve?
The stages of early conciliation for an employee are as follows:
- ACAS are informed of the intent to make a claim and they will ask the employee if they want early conciliation
- If they do, ACAS will ask for some details about the dispute
- If they do not want to take part, ACAS will give them a certificate to enable them to go to tribunal (if an employee tries to bring a claim without this certificate, the tribunal will strike out their claim)
- If proceeding with early conciliation, an ACAS conciliator will speak with the employee or their representative to understand the dispute and what resolution they are seeking.
- At this point the employer is contacted to see if they are willing to take part in talks
- If they are, the conciliator will talk with both sides to see if an agreement can be reached.
Are ACAS on the side of the employer or the employee?
ACAS conciliators are not on either ‘side’. They are not there to insist or impart their own judgement as to the merits or weaknesses of a claim or whether either side should accept any resolutions being offered.
Are there time limits involved?
Most tribunal claims must be submitted within strict timescales. Usually that time limit is three months but some claims do have a longer deadline for submission.
ACAS early conciliation notifications will have a deadline which is usually around one month.
What is Avensure’s role in early conciliation?
The good news is, that as your legal representatives we liaise with ACAS on your behalf, so you don’t have to.
Our in-house legal team will contact the ACAS conciliator, we may need some more information from you first, and then we will liaise with you to see if a settlement can be reached.
Whilst ACAS can’t advise on the case specifics or whether entering into a settlement is advisable, we can. We will not agree to anything without your consent of course.
What happens if early conciliation is successful?
If both parties have agreed to settle the dispute (and this doesn’t always mean a financial pay out), then a settlement form, known as a COT3 agreement is drawn up.
This is a legally binding document, signed by both the employer and the employee, which sets out the terms of what has been agreed to settle the dispute.
Can an employee still go to tribunal if they have settled the case through early conciliation?
If the case has been settled and a COT3 signed, the employee cannot pursue their claim to an employment tribunal.
Points to note:
- Don’t ignore a request for ACAS early conciliation. It is your first warning sign of a potential claim. It may save you a lot of time, stress and potentially money later down the line.
- You are not pressured by ACAS or Avensure to agree to anything. Any agreement under early conciliation will be your decision and with your best interests in mind.
- ACAS are conciliators or mediators; they are not there to take sides.
- Contact Avensure as soon as you hear from ACAS. We will need the details of the conciliator and the reference number- you will usually receive a letter or email with all of the relevant details. Just inform them that you will forward this to your legal team, and we will be in touch in due course.
Next week – we look at the best way of managing annual leave requests due to the current uncertainty regarding overseas travel.