Early conciliation FAQs
Early Conciliation came into effect on 27 January 2020, following a change in NI employment law. It means that anyone who wishes to lodge a claim with the Industrial or Fair Employment Tribunal must first notify the Labour Relations Agency and discuss the option of Early Conciliation. Potential claimants will not be able to proceed to tribunal without at least considering this option.
Early Conciliation is being introduced following a change in NI employment law. The aim is to reduce the number of cases that end up at tribunal.
Conciliation can often bring about a resolution much quicker than going through a tribunal hearing. As for all of the Agency’s services it is free of charge. So overall, it is less costly than going to tribunal. It is private and confidential and you can stay in control so it is less stressful than preparing for and appearing at a tribunal. Overall, the parties involved, the labour market and the economy all benefit.
What happens during conciliation is the same. However, Early Conciliation can only happen for up to one calendar month from when you make an Early Conciliation notification. If agreement isn’t reached within the calendar month but the parties are close to agreement, it is possible to have an extension of two weeks. If you make an Early Conciliation notification it stops the clock on time limits for up to one calendar month (plus the two week extension if this applies).
The conciliation process will be the same but the advantage is that it happens before a claim can be lodged at tribunal. So it can result in an agreement at an earlier point in time and avoid going to tribunal. It does not rule out taking a claim to tribunal if agreement can’t be reached.
Our Conciliation Officers will provide Early Conciliation. They are all highly trained and experienced in conciliation.
The Conciliation Officer talks through the issues with both sides to see if a solution can be found and a settlement reached. They do not take sides or judge who is right or wrong. They do not give an opinion on what they think of a claim or tell you what you should do. They do not pressurise you to settle or abandon a case.
Early Conciliation has been available in GB since 2014. It is not available in the Republic of Ireland.
If you need assistance with communication we can arrange an interpreter.
Before you take a claim to a tribunal you must consider our Early Conciliation service. Using this service may help resolve your complaint. We can conciliate in most claims about individual employment rights and the majority are settled. If you settle your claim through us, the agreement will be legally binding.
You must at least consider Early Conciliation. If you decide not to use this service and proceed to lodge your claim with a tribunal, conciliation will still be available to you.
The easiest way to access our Early Conciliation service is to make your notification online at www.lra.org.uk. If you prefer, you can ring our Early Conciliation number and make your notification by phone 0 33 00 55 22 24.
You can also download the Early Conciliation form from our website, complete it and post it to our Belfast or Derry/Londonderry office. Due to the COVID-19 risk we have had to close our offices, so regrettably Early Conciliation forms cannot be hand delivered to us for the time being.
Labour Relations Agency
2-16 Gordon Street
Labour Relations Agency
What information do I have to give the Labour Relations Agency if I want to use the Early Conciliation service?
You will need to make an Early Conciliation notification and we will need the following information:
- Details about you – your full name and address including postcode, National Insurance Number and other contact details as appropriate.
- Representative - if you have a representative (for example a solicitor or trade union representative) we will need the full name and address of that representative along with contact details for them (for example, a telephone number or email address). You must not give the name of a representative unless they have agreed to act for you.
- Employer - we will need you to provide us with the full legal name and address of your employer. Your employer may be either a company or an individual, but in both cases full details are required. If this information is incomplete or inaccurate it may affect your Early Conciliation notification.
Yes, all information held about individuals is kept confidential and in line with data protection legislation.
As with all of our services, Early Conciliation is free of charge.
If I want to use Early Conciliation how will I notify you of any special requirements or adjustments that I need?
The Conciliation Officer will:
- explain conciliation;
- explain how tribunals work and what they might take into account before deciding the case;
- help establish the facts and discuss your options;
- help you understand the other side’s views about the case and explore with you how you might resolve it without a tribunal hearing;
- explore whether re-employment is possible (in dismissal cases);
- tell you if the other side has any proposals for a settlement.
Early Conciliation can only happen for up to one calendar month from when you make an Early Conciliation notification. If agreement isn’t reached within the calendar month but the parties are close to agreement, it is possible to have an extension of two weeks. If you make an Early Conciliation notification it stops the clock on time limits for up to one calendar month (plus the two-week extension if this applies).
If you have made your notification online you will be able to log on and check the progress of your notification. Your Conciliation Officer will be in regular contact and will update you on progress.
At the end of Early Conciliation you will be issued with an Early Conciliation certificate. You will need this if you wish to take your case to a tribunal. When the certificate is issued the clock starts ticking again so if you still wish to lodge a claim with the Tribunal, you must do so within the Tribunal’s time limits (within three or six months of the alleged incident or behaviour).
You need a certificate if you wish to take your case to a tribunal.
The Tribunal office will direct you to us to consider Early Conciliation.
If you have a representative we will deal with them directly rather than you. You must provide us with their contact name or their organisation’s name and also their postal address or email address.
You must not give us the name of your representative unless they have agreed to act for you.
If you settle your claim through us the agreement will be legally binding.
Early Conciliation can take place for up to one calendar month with a possible extension of two weeks if an agreement is close to being reached. If you decide to take your claim to a tribunal after Early Conciliation, our normal conciliation services will still be available to you.
If I decide to take a tribunal claim after Early Conciliation, are there any time limits I need to be aware of?
Yes. Early Conciliation stops the clock to allow extra time to reach a settlement. If there is no agreement we provide an Early Conciliation certificate which you will need if you want to take your case to tribunal. The Tribunal clock starts ticking again from when the certificate is issued. So if you still wish to lodge a claim with the Tribunal, you must do so within three or six months of the alleged incident or behaviour.
I want to use Early Conciliation to try to resolve an issue with an employee/group of employees. What steps do I need to take?
Employers can contact the Agency and request Early Conciliation to help resolve a dispute without the need for a tribunal hearing. Where there is more than one employee but fewer than five with the same dispute, the employer can request Early Conciliation through our online form at www.lra.org.uk . However, where there are five or more employees with the same dispute the employer should contact us on 0 33 00 55 22 20.
Yes, a representative could be a legal adviser, trade union official, relative or a friend.
A representative acts on behalf of the person making a notification. Our conciliator will deal directly with the representative so it is important that the representative understands what the person wants to achieve from Early Conciliation. The representative will have to keep the person up-to-date with discussions.
A representative can agree a settlement on behalf of the person they are representing. They must make sure that the person is happy with what they are agreeing on their behalf. The settlement will be legally binding so the person must abide by what it says.