The first step – submitting the Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form – is compulsory. If you have not taken this step within the time limit for bringing your tribunal claim, the tribunal will not be allowed to hear your claim and it will be dismissed.
However, although the first step – submitting the form – is compulsory, there is no obligation on either party to actively participate in the conciliation process.
You will not be expected to speak directly with your employer even if you decide to participate in Acas early conciliation. This is because all communication with your employer and all attempts to settle the claim take place via the Acas conciliation officer assigned to your claim.
If, having submitted your Early Conciliation Notification Form, you decide that you do not wish to participate in Acas early conciliation, you can ask the conciliation officer to issue an Acas Early Conciliation Certificate confirming that conciliation has not succeeded in your case. The certificate will have a reference number which you will need in order to bring your tribunal claim. You can’t bring the claim without this number.
Note that there is usually some advantage to agreeing to participate in the conciliation process even if, in practice, you do not intend to change your negotiating position and you don't want any dealings with your employer. This is because it will normally gain you a small amount of extra time – four more weeks – in which to get your claim ready to issue. Read the Acas guidance on early conciliation carefully for information on how Acas early conciliation affects tribunal time limits.