From 6 May 2014, claimants are only able to lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunal if they have first referred a complaint to ACAS for Early Conciliation.  Early Conciliation has been available since 6 April 2014 and ACAS reports that during the transitional period some 1,000 people a week contacted them about the scheme, with 98% going on to try out the scheme.

Early Conciliation is now mandatory.  There are only a very few claims which it does not apply to, such as claims for interim relief, where ACAS does not have the power to conciliate.  There are also a few exceptions: for example, if the potential claimant is one of many people making a claim against the same employer and one person has already made a request to ACAS.

The prospective claimant simply has to tell ACAS their name and address and that of the prospective respondent; no details of the nature of the complaint are required.  If both parties agree to participate, there is a period of up to one month from the date the claimant first contacted ACAS for conciliation to take place.  The period can be extended by 14 days, with the agreement of both parties, if there is a reasonable prospect of achieving a settlement.  The conciliation period "stops the clock" on the limitation period for bringing a claim.

If the conciliation officer concludes at any point during the Early Conciliation period that it is not possible to achieve a settlement, or either party declines to participate, ACAS must issue a conciliation certificate.  The respondent will also get a copy if ACAS has had contact with them during the Early Conciliation period.  The claimant will then be able to lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunal.

We understand that large employers (those with over 1,000 staff) can register "Early Conciliation contacts" with ACAS.  This is designed to make sure that ACAS makes contact with certain named people if a request for Early Conciliation is received from one of the organisation's employees.  In the short term ACAS is also permitting employers with a smaller number of staff to register.  The email address for registering contacts with ACAS for early conciliation is:ECcontactslist@acas.org.uk.