What is Early conciliation as part of an employment tribunal claim?
Early conciliation, a fairly recent introduction to the employment tribunal process, was arguably introduced to reduce the strain on employment tribunals and give claimants quicker access to justice if they had been unfairly dismissed, or discriminated at work and or had to leave work under the shadow of constructive dismissal.
The idea with early conciliation is that the ACAS Conciliator ‘closes down’ the potential claim before it progresses to employment tribunal. They might do this by facilitating the employer to make a financial offer to the wronged employee and the parties in turn reaching a binding legal settlement. This settlement requires the employee to promise not to go to employment tribunal in exchange for the ‘settlement’ or financial compensation for the loss of their job and or poor treatment. Please note this is not to be confused as a ‘settlement agreement’ as it’s not normally concluded in a settlement agreement, but more likely a COT3.
The early conciliation timescale for negotiations to determine if an agreement between the parties can be reached recently increased from four to six weeks for ‘conciliation’. And this is relevant because when you submit your conciliation claim, it effectively ‘stops the clock’ on your employment tribunal claim deadline; which is 3months less a day or 89 days from the date of your termination or the discriminatory act. To be clear, early conciliation is considered as the first semi-formal part of you claim and it is a mandatory step in progressing to claim against your employer. You start early conciliation through applying online and then ‘conciliating’ which in simple terms means discussing with an ACAS conciliator in broad terms why you think you have a claim and the basis of your potential employment tribunal claim.
After this overview, the ACAS conciliator takes the basic tenents of your claim of back to your employer to inform them that;
– you have been in touch to say that you think you have a claim
– that you are considering progressing to employment tribunal and;
– give them the basis of your claim.
Your employer at this point can;
- Ignore the ACAS conciliator and/or sometimes, if you fill in incorrect details, not reply at all because notification doesn’t reach them.
- Tell the ACAS conciliator they are not interested in anything you have to say.
- Listen and ask more questions about your claim, push back a little and keep the conversation open, play you a bit for more information or some employers might have even been expecting the contact from ACAS and be prepared to make you an offer. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
Nice indeed, but many people fail to really prepare for early conciliation and appreciate the opportunity it truly presents, which in my view is massive.
Early conciliation is a gift horse, but like any horse you need to prepare it before your jump on and ride it. So before we explore how to ride, why is early concilation such a great opportunity?
- Because you could get a settlement or compensatory payment without ever having to go through the pain of an employment tribunal. Employment tribunal is a long road, sometimes, years of your life and it can be a costly experience not just in monetary terms, but in terms of a strain on your emotions which inevitably leads to other pressures on you, such as relationships and mental health pressures.
- Secondly because you don’t need a solicitor at this stage, so the process is free. Trust me you don’t need a solicitor but you do need a strategy. A strategy which is going to make the most of early conciliation and make your ex-employer sit up and realise that you know what you are talking about. Remember their lawyer, internal HR or agent that is advising them and it’s them who is going to weigh up your claim and it’s them that is going to suggest to them that settling with you now is a better approach, but only if you have presented your case in a clear and concise way and demonstrated that you are clearly knowledgeable on your rights and your employers violations of the law.
- Because you have six weeks to stop the clock and get some knowledge on your employment rights and still reserve your right to make a claim further down the line if you need.
- Because if you have been unfairly treated you discover that your employer would rather agree a settlement with you now than go through a lengthy and expensive employment tribunal process to find out what they already know, that they treated you badly.
So the early conciliation process can be truly beneficial and pay off, literally in ££s in your bank account, if properly handled. And of course you do have a choic, you can opt to say that you are not interested in early conciliation and request an Early conciliation certificate at the start to allow you to progress to an employment tribunal immediately and progress to drafting up your ET1, however, as outlined above we do believe that would be a tremendously lost opportunity and effectively you’d be kicking that gift horse in the mouth.
So if you are considering making an employment tribunal claim and optimising early conciliation and want to be prepared and get a clear strategy which means you get a settlement without needing to go to an employment tribunal consider in investing in our online course. Our course gives you the tools and strategy to negotiating your settlement in early conciliation. The course really prepares you module by module, giving you the scripts and emails to use and also gives you invaluable training in; –
- How to make your early conciliation claim
- What the legal basis for your employment claim is, including, unfair dismissal and discrimination claims.
- What to say to the ACAS conciliator
- How much your claim is worth and how to create a schedule of loss, essential if you do progress to employment tribunal.
- How to prepare your witness statements and what to expect if you do need to go all the way to employment tribunal.
- How to get the edge in an online interview and what to say in an online interview if you’ve had a bad exit.
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