What is early conciliation?

What is early conciliation?

Early conciliation is a process provided by ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service) that aims to help individuals and employers resolve workplace disputes without the need for the matter to be heard at an Employment Tribunal.

What happens during early conciliation?


Early conciliation has a number of steps which are outlined below:

1. Initiation by the Claimant (the person bringing the claim)


The process begins when the Claimant (the individual raising the workplace dispute) contacts ACAS to express their intention to start early conciliation. This is called a notification and can be done online via the ACAS website.


2. The Claimant provides basic information

In the notification form, the Claimant is asked to provide their contact information, as well as details about their dispute, such as the nature of the complaint(s), for example whether the matter involves discrimination or a dispute over wages, and the contact details of the other parties involved (which would typically be the employer).


3. Assignment of an ACAS conciliator to the case


Once the notification is received, ACAS assigns a conciliator to the case. The conciliator acts as a neutral and impartial third party who facilitates communication and negotiations between the parties. It is not the role of the conciliator to offer advice to either party such as on the merits of the claim, or to express a view on whether an offer of settlement should be accepted. For such guidance it is necessary for the parties to obtain their own advice.

4. Initial discussions with the parties


The conciliator has separate discussions with both the Claimant and the Respondent to gather information, understand their perspectives, and identify potential areas of agreement or compromise.


5. Facilitating communication


 The conciliator encourages open and constructive communication between the parties. They may facilitate discussions between the parties directly or relay messages and offers between them.

ACAS early conciliation form – what is it?

The ACAS early conciliation notification form is available online (to view it click on the link). As said above, the notification form asks for various information relating to the matters in dispute. This information will assist the conciliator to understand the nature of the claims and the relevant issues.

Whilst it is not a requirement that the parties engage in early conciliation, it is typically necessary for the Claimant to submit an early conciliation notification form before it is possible to lodge a claim at the Employment Tribunal. Therefore, the ACAS early conciliation notification form is an important step in the process.


Early conciliation certificate – what do I need to know?


The early conciliation certificate is a document issued by ACAS. This document is issued either because a party does not wish to engage with early conciliation or because the early conciliation period has expired.

The early conciliation certificate has a reference number on it and, in most cases, it is necessary to provide the certificate number in order to bring a claim at the Employment Tribunal. Therefore, the early conciliation certificate serves as evidence that the early conciliation process has concluded.

There are tight deadlines for bringing Employment Tribunal claims. It is therefore important to be aware of any relevant dates, such as when the ACAS certificate was issued.

What happens if my employer refuses early conciliation?


If either party informs ACAS that they do not wish to participate in early conciliation it is brought to an end and the parties are issued with an early conciliation certificate. Once ACAS has issued the certificate it is possible to lodge the claim with the Employment Tribunal. As said earlier, it is still possible to contact the ACAS conciliator at any time until the case is heard at the Employment Tribunal.


Is early conciliation the same thing as bringing an Employment Tribunal claim?


No. Initiating early conciliation is beginning the process and is therefore a signal that the Claimant is contemplating lodging an Employment Tribunal claim. However, it is necessary to submit other documentation in order to bring a claim at the Employment Tribunal.


Why is it helpful to obtain professional advice before engaging in early conciliation?


Obtaining professional advice before engaging in early conciliation through ACAS is highly advisable for several reasons:

1. To fully understand the potential claims and defences


For a Claimant, gaining professional advice at the outset ensures that any potential claims are identified and are properly advanced. It may well be beneficial to obtain professional advice prior to submitting the ACAS notification form. Such action ensures that the information provided to ACAS fully captures the potential claims.

For the Respondent, obtaining professional advice at an early stage provides clarity in terms of establishing what is alleged and discussing next steps.  

2. To gain assessment of prospects


Gaining professional advice enables an assessment of prospects to be made. Such an exercise is likely to be useful to both Claimants and Respondents. It is likely that an assessment would contain an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the case, the potential value of it, the costs of bringing or defending the claim, and the likelihood of success.  This information can be used to inform next steps.

3. For guidance on options


Based on the assessment of prospects, an advisor will go through the options with a view to gaining the best outcome in the circumstances.  This may involve handling potential settlement discussions and, for example, deciding whether or not offers of settlement should be made and, if so, what they should be.

4. Navigating the process going forward


It is important to remember that early conciliation is only a small part of the process of bringing or defending an Employment Tribunal claim. As a consequence, it is important to be aware of what comes next in terms of tasks to be completed and the associated deadlines.

Plotkin and Chandler works exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law. We represent both employers and employees and have expertise in bringing and defending Employment Tribunal claims. If you would like advice on early conciliation, or any other stage of the Employment Tribunal process, we can help.

If you would like to discuss your needs, and the ways in which we can help, call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us on info@plotkinandchandler.com




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