It is always best to resolve work place disputes as early as possible by following the business or organisations grievance or appeals policy, where these are in place, until the process is concluded. Where resolution cannot be achieved and the employee intends to lodge an Employment Tribunal claim they are legally obliged to notify ACAS before doing so. ACAS will then offer the opportunity of Acas Early Conciliation.
Acas early conciliation is voluntary and offered to both sides with the aim of settling the matter and involves them working with the employer and employee to help find a solution that is acceptable to both parties and so avoid the need for an Employment Tribunal claim. Both parties must take part in the process for conciliation to work but can withdraw from the process at any stage. Most people and their employers want to take part in early conciliation to settle disputes without the need to go to court.
ACAS conciliation is a free and confidential service and reaching a settlement through early conciliation is quicker, cheaper and less stressful for all parties than a tribunal hearing. Conciliation involves an independent ACAS conciliator discussing the issues with both employee and employer in order to help them reach a better understanding of each other’s position and underlying interests. The conciliator does not take sides but tries to encourage the parties in a dispute to come to an agreement between themselves, nothing is imposed and outcomes can include agreement over things not available to a tribunal such as employment references or an apology.
Initially early conciliation will be offered for up to a month although this can be extended by up to 2 weeks if both parties agree that a resolution may be possible within this extension. The time limits for making a claim to the employment tribunal are paused during this period of conciliation. When the early conciliation period is over the time limits for making a claim are restarted but the opportunity for ACAS conciliation remains right up to the point a judgement is made at a tribunal.
Early Conciliation is available to everyone although there are situations where an individual does not have to notify ACAS before lodging an employment tribunal claim. These are listed on the ACAS website.
ACAS provides services to both employers and employees to help resolve and prevent problems in the work place. This includes information, advice, training and conciliation. More details can be found on the website www.acas.org.uk