What is ACAS?
The government funds a free Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to help resolve disputes between employers and their employees.
Perhaps more widely known for its role in high profile disputes such as negotiating with parties in strike situations – ACAS can also be accessed by individuals, legal representatives and employers.
With a remit to offer advice and guidance it can act as a non-partisan go between when relationships have become strained.
What is Early Conciliation?
Claimants who have employment disputes and wish to make claims to employment tribunals must first notify ACAS that they intend to make claims and go through the early conciliation process within three months (three months less one day) of the day on which the act that they are complaining about occurred.
For example, in cases for unfair dismissal this would be within three months of the date that they first found out that they had been dismissed or their last working day if dismissed with notice.
The aim of the ACAS process is to help both sides (employee and employer) reach a mutually agreeable resolution without the need to take the step of issuing an employment claim to a tribunal.
Examples of possible negotiated solutions might include, amongst others: financial settlements, agreed references or reinstatement.
The ACAS Certificate
In the event that no solution can be found or if either party cannot be contacted or refuses to enter into conciliation then an ACAS certificate will be issued.
The claimant must cite the number from the certificate on the ET1 (Claim form) when issuing to the Employment Tribunal.
Early conciliation is a compulsory step and claimants are not permitted to issue to tribunals without an ACAS certificate.