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‘Early Conciliation’ – all claims to go first to ACAS

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This page does not apply outside Great Britain.
Last updated 11th August 2021.

Employment tribunal claimants normally have to notify ACAS of their complaint before putting in a tribunal claim. Known as ‘Early conciliation’, this gives an opportunity to resolve the dispute through conciliation before going to a tribunal.

Notification to ACAS is normally through a form submitted online. Go to tell.acas.org.uk.

Early conciliation can be a quicker, more flexible and confidential way of resolving the employment dispute, without the stress of going to a tribunal. It is also free.

The rules do not mean that the claimant or employer has to engage with ACAS. If either party is unwilling to conciliate, or if conciliation is unsuccessful, ACAS can issue the certificate allowing the claim to proceed to the tribunal.

Barrister Daniel Barnett talks to ACAS conciliators about what happens in Early Conciliation, and how to make the most of it.

Generally the claimant should notify ACAS within the normal three-month (less one day) time limit after the alleged discrimination. The time limit for submitting an employment tribunal claim is extended to allow for the conciliation period (for more detail see Using early conciliation (citizensadvice.org.uk)). You can still notify ACAS after the three-month time limit, but if you don’t reach an agreement with the employer any tribunal claim you make will be late, so it will be up to the tribunal whether to extend the time limit to allow the claim to go ahead.

If you want to claim against someone else in addition to the employer, for example an individual, you have to fill out a separate Early Conciliation form for each.

The Early Conciliation scheme is in addition to other rules encouraging use of internal grievance or disciplinary procedures: see Grievance, disciplinary and other procedures.


The main legal provision requiring early conciliation is s.18A Employment Tribunals Act 1996. Extension of time to allow for the conciliation period is in s.207B Employment Rights Act 1996.

Northern Ireland

The rules discussed above apply to Great Britain, ie England, Scotland and Wales. However Northern Ireland also has rules requiring notification of the Labour Relations Agency before bringing a claim. See www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/early-conciliation and www.lra.org.uk/early-conciliation.

On Northern Ireland more generally, see Northern Ireland disability discrimination law.

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