Rebecca Bennett
Solicitor
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Date Published:01 Dec 2020 Last Updated:22 Jul 2021

Acas’ Early Conciliation : the new rules

Employment Law Advice

As of today there is a standard 6 week early conciliation process that must be complied with prior to issuing all claims at the employment tribunal.

Prior to the 1 December 2020, the process lasted 1 month with the possibility of an extension of a further 2 weeks. An Acas conciliator is no longer able to agree to extend the conciliation period.

In addition, after 1 December 2020, Acas may during any point of the early conciliation process, contact the prospective claimant to correct any errors on the early conciliation notification form. This includes discrepancies of names and addresses of the prospective claimant or respondent. Prior to this change Acas could potentially reject the form if an error had been made.

What is Acas’ early conciliation?

The process enables the parties to explore whether settlement is possible prior to issuing a claim. The parties are assisted during the process by an Acas’ conciliator who is assigned to the matter.

Once the early conciliation process has been initiated this ‘stops the clock’ from running for limitation purposes. The deadline to issue a claim is therefore extended by this process and can be calculated after receipt of Acas’ early conciliation certificate.

How do I initiate Acas early conciliation?

To initiate Acas’ early conciliation you can either call Acas’ helpline or submit an online form. Please see the following link to initiate early conciliation online: https://tell.acas.org.uk/find-a-solution-to-your-employment-dispute

When does early conciliation start?

The period of early conciliation starts on the date on which Acas received the early conciliation form or when Acas is contacted by telephone to initiate early conciliation.

Do the new rules change anything?

In theory no, as an Acas conciliator always had the ability apply an extension of a further 2 weeks after the 1 month process and therefore the new 6 week rule essentially reflects what has been happening in practice.

Can the early conciliation period be shorter than 6 weeks?

Yes. If Acas is unable to make contact with either party despite reasonable attempts to do so or if either party is unwilling to engage in settlement discussions, an Acas conciliator is able to conclude that settlement is not possible and therefore it can issue the early conciliation certificate.

What happens at the end of the early conciliation process?

If settlement has not been possible, Acas will issue an early conciliation certificate to both parties. You will need to quote the certificate reference number on an ET1 (claim form) to the employment tribunal.

If you would like further advice on issuing an employment tribunal claim please contact our experienced employment team on 01202 525333 or email our employment partner, Kate Brooks at kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk