How to get the most out of early conciliation
A disgruntled employee leaves the business under a dark cloud and threatens revenge. The following week you receive a call from Acas informing you that the former employee has lodged a claim against you and the business, and that you’ve been called to attend an early conciliation meeting as a preliminary stage in the investigation. You are shocked, angered, and want to react. But you know that an overreaction will not look good. What should you do?
Early Conciliation is now the first step an employee needs to take in order to bring a Tribunal claim against their employers. The process usually lasts a month and the idea is to encourage both parties to reach an amicable settlement. Here are my top tips for getting the most out of the early conciliation process:
Don’t get emotional
When you first get the call from Acas, it can be a shock for employers if you weren’t expecting the claim. The most important thing at this stage is to take a deep breath and don’t decline the opportunity to conciliate straight away.You could be passing up a vital opportunity to solve a problem without it costing you time and money.
Use your conciliator
A common misconception with employers is that the Acas conciliation officer is on the employee’s side. In fact they are neutral and shouldn’t take sides in a dispute. Most conciliators have a great deal of experience in resolving disputes, so trust them and don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand.
One of the most under used aspects of Early Conciliation is the information that you can gather on the potential claim against you. Your Acas conciliator can be invaluable in helping you find out what allegations and claim your employee may try to bring in Tribunal. This can give you additional time to investigate and prepare your defence.
A lot of Tribunal claims can come from employees misunderstanding a decision that you have made. If you then get a conciliation claim against you this can be an opportunity to correct any false impressions an employee may have. It also isn’t a bad idea to supply some of the evidence you may have to support your assertions. Whilst there is no obligation to provide documents at this stage it can discourage a claim if an employee sees the evidence you have.
Remember the cost
Starting early conciliation costs nothing. If an employee issues a Tribunal claim then they would normally pay a fee. They may also instruct a solicitor or other legal representative to draft the claim for them. If you lose the Tribunal then you may have to pay back some of these costs Therefore early conciliation is the best opportunity both sides will have to settle a claim as neither has incurred any costs. Don’t presume that an offer will still be there further down