In 2014 an ‘Early Conciliation’ process became available to help settle an employee’s dispute with an employer without going to an Employment Tribunal. Where individuals are considering making a claim to a tribunal, Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, provides the opportunity for them and their employer to resolve the matter before a legal claim is lodged. In order to encourage the use of Early Conciliation an employee is required in nearly all cases to contact Acas and to obtain an Early Conciliation Certificate. Without a Certificate an employee cannot make an application to an Employment Tribunal.
The needs of the smaller business was part of the reason for the introduction of Early Conciliation. The Coalition Government, which introduced the reform, had found that smaller businesses are proportionately more likely to find themselves the subject of employment tribunal claims, but are much less likely to have access to in-house expertise to help them deal with problems.
Although an employee is legally required to contact Acas before making a tribunal claim, neither party is obliged to take part in conciliation and can stop whenever they wish. But Acas considers that Early Conciliation has been a success and has provided quick resolutions of disputes without the need for legal action.