- be an employee (not, for example, an agency worker or self-employed);
- have been dismissed;
- for most unfair dismissal claims, have two years of continuous service;
- submit an Acas Early Conciliation Form; and
- complete Form ET1.
The first step in any employment tribunal claim is to contact Acas, by sending Acas a completed Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form, available from the Acas website. This first step is compulsory. If you do not take this step in time, you will not be allowed to bring your tribunal claim.
You will be asked by Acas whether you want to take part in early conciliation to try to resolve your dispute without the need to go to a tribunal. You do not have to take part and neither does your employer. However, if you do decide to take part in conciliation, you may find that your employer would like to compromise the dispute by making a settlement offer that you can then consider with your union rep if you have one. During Acas conciliation, your dealings are with the Acas conciliator with responsibility for your claim – not your employer or your employer’s solicitor.
Acas’s role is that of an impartial conciliator. It is not to advise you on whether or not any settlement offer by your employer is a good one. If you are in any doubt, you should check with your union rep or solicitor before agreeing to a settlement. Acas settlements, once concluded, cannot be undone.
You must send the completed Early Conciliation Notification Form to Acas before the time limit for bringing your claim. Tribunal time limits are very short – usually just three months. If you miss the deadline, you are unlikely to be able to bring your claim in the tribunal.
Acas early conciliation (PDF) is free. It is also confidential. Nothing that is said during Acas conciliation will be known to the judge hearing your case if no settlement is reached.
If Acas is not able to settle your claim using early conciliation, or if you or your employer decide not to try to settle the claim through Acas, Acas will give you an Early Conciliation Certificate Number. You need this number to be able to bring your claim.
The next step is to complete and submit the Employment Tribunal Claim Form, known as Form ET1 (PDF) by the deadline date shown on the Acas early conciliation certificate. If you miss this deadline, you are very unlikely to be allowed to bring your claim.
Once early conciliation has ended, claimants have around one month in which to issue a claim in the employment tribunal. The deadline for issuing this claim should be treated as if it is set in stone. Extensions of time are rarely granted if the deadline is missed. Paper copies of Form ET1 are also available from Citizens Advice. You have a choice between posting a paper copy of the form or making an online claim to the employment tribunal via the GOV.UK website.
You can ring a government helpline providing general advice on bringing a claim on: 0300 123 1024. Lines are open 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They should be able to provide copies of Form ET1 in alternative formats, such as large print or Braille.
Use of Form ET1 is compulsory. It cannot be completed without your Acas early conciliation certificate number.
There is no longer a fee to access an employment tribunal, as of July 2017, when a union-backed case at the Supreme Court ruled that charging for access to tribunals was unlawful.
There are very strict deadlines for any claim in the employment tribunal so it is vital to act quickly and not leave your claim until the last minute.