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How ACAS Early Conciliation works

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What is ACAS Early Conciliation?

Acas stands for the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service. They provide advice, training, conciliation and other services for employees, workers and employers about workplace issues. Conciliation

In Acas Early Conciliation (EC), a neutral Acas Conciliator tries to help you and your employer resolve your dispute within a period of up to six weeks. It is a free and confidential service. If you and your employer are able to reach an agreement, the Acas Conciliator will put whatever is agreed on an Acas Form Cot 3. These are the terms of settlement. The COT3 settlement is a legally binding contract which the ACAS Conciliator supports you and your employer to achieve, in order to settle your differences. Once you and your employer have signed the COT 3, neither of you can go back on its terms. If you don’t agree the ACAS Conciliator will give you a certificate (the EC Certificate), which means you can now file your claim in the Employment Tribunal (ET).


Acas conciliation flowchart

How early conciliation works

What is a cot3?

 Acas conciliation rules of procedure

Is Acas Conciliation compulsory?

It is not compulsory for you or your employer to go through Acas conciliation. It is only compulsory for you to apply and get the early conciliation certificate since you need it to file your claim in the employment tribunal. If you don't want to go through conciliation, just tell Acas and they will issue you with your early conciliation certificate so you can file your claim in the employment tribunal.  There are also certain claims that are excluded from early conciliation such as an application for interim relief.


employment tribunals (early conciliation: exemptions and rules of procedure) regulations 2014

How to complete the employment tribunal claim form

employment tribunal case writer

Acas early conciliation and tribunal time limits

Time limits are very strict in the employment Tribunal. The general rule is that you have three months less one day from the event you are complaining about to bring your claim. This is called the limitation date. The clock stops running during Acas conciliation. This is done by first calculating the limitation date and adding the number of days it took to conciliate to the limitation date. This gives you the date by which you should file your claim in the Employment Tribunal. If your claim is for unfair dismissal, the limitation date would be three months less one day  from the dismissal date, plus the period of conciliation. If its for discrimination, the limitation date is three months less one day from the discriminatory act, plus the period of conciliation. The ET time limits calculator works it out for you. 


time limits calculator

time limits in the employment tribunal

timelimits for discrimination claims

ACAS Early Conciliation Notification Form

Before you file a claim in the ET you MUST apply to Acas for early conciliation (EC).  Apply for EC even if you don’t want to go to the ET because the Conciliator can help you resolve your problem with your employer. The EC Notification form page has 3 categories;

  1. Individuals – for you
  2. Employers – for employers who want to resolve issues
  3. Group Claim notifications – where more than 1 employee is bringing the same claim against a single employer

Select the Notification Claim for individuals tab. This takes you to a page with FAQ’s and a blue tab at the bottom which says Individual Claimant Notification Form. Selecting this will take you to another page with a tab that says Make an Individual Claim. After you select this, you are presented with 2 choices:

A.  I would like to try the free early conciliation service – If you select this tab, you complete the application for early conciliation and a conciliator will contact your employer and help you both find a find a solution to your dispute if possible.  

B. I don't want to try early conciliation, I want to take my dispute to tribunal – if you select this tab, you will fill in basic details and ACAS will send you your conciliation certificate without going through conciliation.


letter before claim

termination negotiations

without prejudice communications and discussions

without prejudice subject to costs offers

Exemption from ACAS Early Conciliation

There are certain circumstances when you don’t have to contact ACAS for Early Conciliation before filing a claim in the Employment Tribunal:-  

  1. If another person you are making the claim against the same employer with, has an ACAS early conciliation certificate number.
  2. Your claim is not listed in section 18(1) of the ETA 1996. ACAS does not have a duty to conciliate on claims that are not listed in that section.
  3. Your employer has already applied for ACAS Early Conciliation.
  4. You are making a claim for interim relief.
  5. You are making a claim against the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service or GCHQ.

See  employment tribunals (early conciliation: exemptions and rules of procedure) regulations 2014

After ACAS receives your Conciliation Application

Once you have completed the online application form, you will get an automated email notification from ACAS to say that they have received your application, and that you should give them a call to progress your application. If you don’t call ACAS after getting the automatic notification, they may close your  case by issuing an EC Certificate to confirm that you have complied with your obligation to contact ACAS. When you call, an EC Support Officer (ECSO) will tell you about the EC process,  take down your name and address as well as your employer’s name and address. This bit is very important because if you are unable to reach agreement with your employer and decide to go to the ET, these are the same details that will be on your ACAS EC Certificate.

The ECSO will take down brief details about the issue and ask if you are okay for them to contact your employer. If you say no, that will be the end of the process and you will be issued with an EC Certificate. If you say yes, your case will be forwarded to a Conciliation Officer (CO).

The CO will contact your employer and ask them if they want to take part in the conciliation. The CO may contact you first before calling your employer. If your employer agrees to take part in conciliation, the CO will try and help you both reach a mutually agreeable resolution. If your employer does not want to take part in conciliation or you cannot agree a resolution with your employer, the CO will issue an EC certificate with a unique number starting with the letter R. You must include this number on your ET Claim Form (ET1).

See What happens when I fill out the notification form

Does Acas continue to help after issuing the EC certificate? 

Yes. You can speak to Acas at any time during proceedings even during a substantive hearing. Acas helps with Judicial mediation by helping you to agree the terms of a legally binding agreement and circulating signed COT3 terms.

Last Updated: [03/08/2022]