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Acas Early Conciliation

It is advised that employees and employers settle their problems outside the Employment Tribunal. However, if this doesn’t work, they can bring the dispute to the ACAS for early conciliation.

For more information about Acas Early Conciliation, including how to apply and expert advice on what to do before and after early conciliation, reach out to our employment lawyers today on 0333 305 9375 or contact us online.


What is Early Conciliation?

Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offers early conciliation services to employers and employees. The service is free and meant to settle disputes between employees and employers outside the Employment Tribunal.

Conciliation is voluntary and can help both parties save time, cost and stress in lodging a claim at the employment tribunal. This is a significant difference between conciliation and other dispute resolution methods like mediation and arbitration.

However, it is mandatory to notify Acas before proceeding to the Employment Tribunal. Any claim that gets to the Tribunal without evidence of having passed through Acas will be rejected.

Early conciliation complaints can be lodged to Acas in cases of wrong or unfair dismissal, whistleblowing, discrimination, redundancy, harassment etc. For conciliation to happen, both parties have to agree. The person who lodges the claim is the claimant, and the other party is the respondent.

Exceptions to Early Conciliation

Even though most disputes have to pass through Acas, there are a few exceptions where it is not necessary or available. You don’t need to contact Acas if:

  • you’re part of a group that has already lodged a claim to Acas concerning the same issue
  • the person you’re making a claim against (respondent) has already contacted Acas with evidence
  • you’re only claiming to have been unfairly relieved of your duty, even if temporarily
  • your claim is against the security services
  • Acas doesn’t have jurisdiction to conciliate any or all of your claims.

How To Request for Early Conciliation

You only need to fill out an early conciliation form to start the early conciliation process. You can get this form at the Acas website.

All you need to do is fill in the address of you and your employer. It is not mandatory to elaborate on what the dispute is about.

When you fill out the conciliation form, you must use the respondent’s legal name.

The name on the early conciliation form should be the same as the one that reaches the Tribunal, should you decide to proceed there. If the names don’t match, the Tribunal will reject the application. So, confirm your employer’s legal name on their official website.

You’ll get an automated response if you submit your form at the website. This is proof that you contacted Acas.

Alternatively, you can call Acas if completing an online form is too much trouble. You can reach Acas on weekdays from 8am to 6pm on 0300 123 1122. Take note of who spoke to you and helped fill out the form.

You have to contact Acas for the early conciliation process within 3 months your dispute started.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Early Conciliation?

Like other dispute settlement methods, early conciliation has advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of them.


  • Settling your dispute via early conciliation saves you the time, cost and stress of taking your claim to the Employment Tribunal.
  • You get to know how well your claim will perform if it gets to the employment tribunal and also be intimated on other methods of settling your dispute without heading to the Tribunal.
  • Early conciliation sometimes prevents the total breakdown of the relationship between the claimant and the respondent.


  • Due to the confidential nature of early conciliation, there is no legal advice available hence, the possibility of the respondent or claimant getting less than they deserve in terms of compensation is high.
  • Both parties may not agree, meaning the case still ends up in the Tribunal, thus wasting even more time.

What is the Job of the Acas Conciliator?

After lodging your dispute, Acas will assign an experienced conciliator to you. The conciliation process usually happens via calls or email. The job of the conciliator are as follows:

  • clearly explain how the acas conciliation process works
  • urge both parties to use any internal settlement methods available in the company
  • explain the perspective of the other party to both the claimant and respondent
  • deliberate on the proposals each side has for the dispute settlement
  • explain the position of the law in cases such as yours
  • walk both sides through the strengths and weaknesses of their case
  • explain how the Tribunal works

Limits of the Conciliator’s Role

The conciliator assigned to your case cannot:

  • have a point of view on the matter
  • give advise on who should make or accept any steps towards settlement
  • help any party assess the advantage or disadvantage of the proposal the other party is bringing.

Find out how we can assist with your case and guide you through the next steps.

What is the Duration of Acas Early Conciliation?

Acas early conciliation can last up to 6 weeks. If the dispute is not settled after this time, both parties can proceed to the Employment Tribunal after getting an early conciliation certificate.

Deadline for Acas Early Conciliation

You must start acas early conciliation within a day, less than three months after your dispute started. In the case of equal or redundancy pay, you have a day less than 6 months to start.

If you miss this deadline, you cannot settle with your respondent outside the Tribunal. In this case, it is the prerogative of the Tribunal to accept or reject your late claim.

If you miss the deadline for early conciliation or need help clarifying the process, don’t hesitate to contact an adviser for guidance. Call us on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online today.

Before Starting Early Conciliation

Before starting early conciliation, ensure you have all relevant documents with the correct dates. Some documents you need to have handy are your employment letter, the correspondence between you and your employer concerning the issue and any other document you feel will help your claim.

What Happens During Early Conciliation?

Once you inform Acas of your intention to make a claim, the following process ensues:

  • The conciliator asks if you want early conciliation. If you don’t, Acas will give you an early conciliation certificate.
  • If you want early conciliation, Acas will ask for details concerning the dispute.
  • Acas will issue a confirmation letter with a unique reference number to you.
  • Acas will also analyze the information you gave them. You may get calls and emails if they need more details from you.
  • After Acas has all the details they need, they’ll assign a conciliator to you.
  • The conciliator will talk with you or your representative if you have any to comprehend your perspective and how you want the dispute to be settled.
  • The conciliator will speak with your employer and ask if they want to settle the dispute via early conciliation.
  • If your employer is open to it, talks will start till there is an agreement to settle or go to Tribunal.

You must spell out any details you don’t want the other party to know about you during the conciliation process. The process is confidential.

Considering Settlement

In some cases, the respondent can offer settlements to you. This is usually monetary compensation. However, when you take this settlement, you will lose the right to go to the Employment Tribunal.

It would help to consider what your employer offers, so you don’t agree to terms you will come to rue later. Here are some of the things you need to consider before decking to accept or reject a settlement offer:

  • the strength of your case
  • the worth of the compensation and if the Tribunal can offer much more
  • the next step to take if you reject the offer
  • if the cost, time and stress of going to the Tribunal is worth it
  • the possibility of getting or keeping your job.

If you think you are getting reasonable compensation, you can accept it. However, if you feel the offer is too small, you can reject it and ask for an increase.

When an Agreement is Reached

If you and your employer eventually agree, the Acas conciliator will draw an agreement based on your understanding. This agreement is written on a form known as COT3.

It is vital to note that once you tell a conciliator that you agree to the terms of what your employer is offering, it is legally binding, even when the form does not carry your signature yet. This means you must evaluate the terms carefully before verbally agreeing.

Before you finally agree to the amount your employer is offering, ensure your employer has also agreed to other terms you have submitted, like better working conditions, pay raise as at when due and pension benefits.

You can also get external help to review and evaluate what your employer offers to ensure you are not making a mistake.

Once you are satisfied with everything, the COT3 form will be forwarded to you so you can sign it.

Our expert employment lawyers can represent you at the Employment Tribunal.

When an Agreement is Not Reached

If you and your employer cannot agree, the Acas early conciliator will issue you an early conciliation certificate. Preferably, it should be sent via mail. Your certificate should have all of the following:

  • the date you contacted Acas for the first time
  • your name and address, and your employer’s legal name and address
  • a reference ID number
  • when Acas sent you a conciliation certificate
  • the medium used in sending the certificate (by mail or post)

Contact your Acas conciliator if any of the details above are incorrect or missing.

Get Legal Help

Acas conciliator is just an official middle person for your conciliation with your employer. They will neither advise you nor your employer on what to do. They are neutral and will only intimate both parties on the position of the law in your dispute. It is not the place of the conciliator to point out who is wrong or right.

So, if you need advice on what to do and professional help on your employer’s proposal, you may need legal help. The lawyer will act as your representative.

When you get a representative, Acas will no longer contact you. The conciliator will only speak with the legal representative. So, it is necessary that you let your lawyer know exactly what you want and also keep in touch for updates.

Going to the Employment Tribunal

You can make a claim to the employment tribunal for yourself, for a group you’re part of and for someone else as a representative. The claim has to be made within 3 months of when the problem started, or your employment was terminated.

If you don’t make a claim within this timeframe, you must show the employment tribunal why you didn’t meet up, say, a case of ill health.

The first thing the Tribunal will require from you is the early conciliation certificate. Making a claim is free. However, you’ll have to pay for the expenses of your witness and compensation if you’re found guilty.

You can make a claim online or by downloading and filling out the claim form and sending it to the Tribunal’s central office via post.

After making your claim, the respondent has 28 days to tell their version of the story. After that, the Tribunal will decide on the case or invite you and your respondent for a hearing.

You may be invited to pre-hearing either physically or virtually. Here, the Tribunal tells you what you must bring for the hearing.

Your witness can come on that day to help make your case. If your witness refuses to come, the Tribunal can order them to. But bear in mind that you’ll be responsible for their expenses.

You will usually get a 14-day notice before your hearing. And the hearing is generally held at any tribunal office near your workplace.

After the hearing, it may take a few days or even weeks for a decision to be taken. However, in some cases, you will get the decision at the hearing.

If you win, the Tribunal will order the respondent to pay compensation. However, if they fail to do so and do not also appeal the Tribune’s decision in 42 days, they will be fined by the court.

If you lose, you have 14 days to appeal the decision if there’s new evidence or error in how the Tribune settled the dispute. Otherwise, you have to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Call us for further assistance with your Conciliation case.

How Can IAS Help?

IAS has competent employment lawyers with years of experience and are well-versed in UK employment laws. Contact us today and our team will review your case and guide you on the next steps. We will advise you on what to do if you have issues like unfair dismissal, unlawful benefit cuts and discrimination.

Our team will help you assemble an exceptional case and represent you at Acas or the Tribunal. For more information about how we can help you or if you’d like to speak with one of our immigration lawyers, call us on 0333 305 9375 or contact us online today.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

Table of Contents

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Frequently Asked Questions

Early conciliation is not mandatory. However, it is required by law that you notify Acas of your intention to make a claim at the Tribune. If you don’t want to participate in early conciliation, contact the Acas, and they will give you the early conciliation certificate so you can proceed to the Tribune.

No. Even though you can start the conciliation process after laying a claim at the Tribune, it is no longer early conciliation. Just conciliation.

No. You cannot use evidence discussed during early conciliation in a tribunal hearing. This is because the early conciliation process is confidential.

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