This first step is compulsory. If you do not take this step within the time limit for bringing your claim (usually three months) the tribunal will not be allowed to hear it and it will be dismissed.
The only exception is a claim for interim relief (brought, for example, where a trade union member believes they are being victimised because of their trade union activities). A claim for interim relief must be brought to the tribunal very quickly indeed – within just seven days. Acas early conciliation does not apply to this kind of claim. Speak to your union rep immediately if you think you should be bringing a claim for interim relief.
Acas early conciliation is free of charge.
Although the first step in the Acas early conciliation process – submitting the form – is compulsory, there is no obligation on either party to participate in the process. Its aim is to try to achieve a settlement of the claim without the need for tribunal proceedings. Acas has four weeks in which to try to achieve a settlement. The Acas conciliator can extend the process by an extra two weeks if there is a reasonable chance of a settlement, as long as both parties agree.
If a settlement is reached, Acas will record it as an agreement known as an Acas COT3 Settlement Agreement. If no settlement is reached, you either abandon your claim or go forward to the employment tribunal.
The parties can continue to conciliate through Acas once the claim has been issued in the tribunal.
You can find information from Acas about the Acas early conciliation process. You can get help completing the Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form by calling the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100.