Early conciliation

Following a change in employment law on 27 January 2020, if you want to lodge a claim with the Industrial or Fair Employment Tribunal, you must first tell the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) and discuss early conciliation. You can’t go to tribunal without at least considering this option.

How early conciliation works

Tribunal claims usually have to be presented within three or six months of the alleged incident or behaviour, depending on the type of claim.

However, if you make an early conciliation notification, the clock will stop for up to one month during which conciliation can take place. The conciliation officer has the power to extend for a further 14 days if there’s a reasonable prospect of an agreement and if both parties agree.

Getting started with early conciliation

Due to the threat of COVID-19, LRA offices are closed to visitors.

You can make an early conciliation notification on the LRA website.

If you can’t do it online, you can:

  • phone the  Labour Relations Agency where a staff member can take your details
  • ask a legal or trade union representatives to do this for you
  • download the form, complete it by hand and post it to the LRA

You (or your representative) will then be contacted by one of the LRA’s conciliation officers, usually within five working days.

They will explain how conciliation works and with your consent, will contact the other party to ask if there’s a willingness to try early conciliation.

If both parties agree, the conciliation officer will try to help find a solution they both find acceptable and the settlement will be legally binding.

If parties can’t agree a settlement, the LRA will issue an early conciliation certificate which you will need if you decide to go to tribunal.

Exemptions on early conciliation

There are a small number of exemptions where you can go straight to tribunal.

This includes disputes where there are multiple claims. If someone with exactly the same dispute has an early conciliation certificate, others don’t need to submit their own early conciliation notification but can be added to the tribunal claim form for the lead case. Conciliation discussions can then be managed collectively through a representative.

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