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Early conciliation - how it affects the time limit for making a claim

Early conciliation has an important implication for the time limit for making a claim. It stops the clock so that time is suspended while you are in the early conciliation process.

It is essential that you read this page to find out how early conciliation affects the time limit for making your claim.

Time limits in employment cases

The normal time limit for making a claim in most employment cases is three months minus one day.

In redundancy pay and equal pay cases, the time limit is six months minus one day.

If early conciliation applies to your case, this will affect the time limit for presenting your case to an employment tribunal.

How long does early conciliation last?

Early conciliation (EC) can last up to one calendar month starting on the date on which you notify Acas of your potential claim.

This one-month period can be extended by up to 14 days if, towards the end of the month, Acas thinks that there is a reasonable prospect of settling the case within those extra 14 days. You (or your representative) can also ask for an extension.

If you do not wish to take part in early conciliation, or you can’t settle all parts of your dispute, Acas must issue an early conciliation certificate.

This can be:

  • at any point during the early conciliation period, or
  • at the end of the one-month conciliation period, or
  • at the end of the extended one-month-and-14-day period.

When will the certificate be treated as having been received?

When you will be treated as having received the early conciliation certificate depends on how it is sent to you.

If the EC certificate is sent by email

You will be treated as having received it on the same day it was sent.

If the EC certificate is sent by post

If the certificate is sent by post, you will be treated as having received it on the second working day after it was sent.

A working day does not include Sundays and public holidays.

The early conciliation period

This is also called the pause period or the stop the clock period. The early conciliation period:

  • starts on the day after you contact Acas, either by telephone or by completing the online EC form (Day A), and
  • ends on the day you receive your early conciliation certificate (Day B).

The early conciliation period could be as long as one calendar month plus 14 days from the day after the day on which you contact Acas, or as short as one day.

Example of a short conciliation period

You present your form online or telephone Acas on 1 May. Acas establishes on 2 May that you or your employer do not wish to conciliate, and emails you the early conciliation certificate on 2 May. The early conciliation period lasted one day.

Example of a long conciliation period

You present your form online or telephone Acas on 1 May. This is Day A. The conciliation period starts on 2 May. Conciliation may continue for up to one calendar month starting that day. In this case, the early conciliation period is from 2 May to 1 June.

On 1 June, Acas thinks that there’s a reasonable prospect of settlement, and so the period is extended by 14 days, from 2 to 15 June.

Unfortunately, negotiations break down and no settlement is reached. You receive the Acas early conciliation certificate by email on 15 June. The end of the conciliation period is 15 June, known as Day B.

How the early conciliation period affects the time limit for making your claim

Early conciliation extends the time you have to make your claim. This is because while you are taking part in early conciliation, the clock stops. If negotiations fail, the clock starts running again from the date you are deemed to have received your early conciliation certificate (Day B). Time is added to the original time limit for making a claim to make up for the pause during the early conciliation period.

However, you will not know the exact new time limit until conciliation has ended and you have received your early conciliation certificate.

If your original time limit falls between Day A and one month after Day B

If your original time limit falls between Day A and one month after Day B (the date on which you receive your early conciliation certificate), the new time limit will be one month after Day B.

Example 1

You were dismissed on 31 May. The original time limit would expire on 30 August. You enter into conciliation on 15 August, Day A, but this fails on 5 September, Day B.

The original time limit falls within the period which began with Day A and ended a month after Day B, that is, from 15 August to 5 October. Therefore time will expire on 5 October.

If your original time limit falls more than one month after Day B

If the original time limit falls more than one month after Day B, then time will be extended by a period equivalent to the early conciliation period. The length of the early conciliation period is calculated from the day after Day A up to and including Day B.

Example 2

You were dismissed on 31 May. The original time limit for making your claim would be 30 August. You enter into conciliation on 15 June, Day A, but this fails after 20 days on 5 July, Day B.

The original time limit does not fall within a period which began with Day A and ended a month after Day B, that is, from 15 June to 5 August. The early conciliation period took 20 days. Therefore, 20 days will be added to the original time limit of 30 August. The new time limit is therefore 19 September.

So, in every case, as shown in the two examples above, you will sometimes have more, but will never have less, than one month from the date you receive your early conciliation certificate (Day B) to present your claim to the employment tribunal, provided that you contact Acas before the original time limit expires.

If your original time limit falls before you contact Acas

If the original time limit for your claim expired before you contact Acas to start the early conciliation process, you should contact Acas immediately to start early conciliation and contact a specialist adviser for help and advice.

Even if you are making a claim out of time, you will need your early conciliation certificate to complete the ET1.

Other useful information

 

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