We offer conciliation services to help parties involved in a workplace dispute to come to a legally binding resolution without needing to go through a tribunal. We offer both individual conciliation and collective conciliation, for example where an issue affects a number of employees. There is no charge for using the Agency's conciliation services.
Pre-Claim Conciliation services
Good discipline and grievance procedures can help organisations to sort out problems internally and avoid industrial tribunal claims. However, unresolved issues can require some additional support. Where a problem or disagreement in the workplace is likely to lead to a tribunal claim the Labour Relations Agency will often be able to help employers and employees find a solution that is acceptable to both. This service is known as Pre-Claim Conciliation and like the Agency’s other services it is free to use. It can save the time, stress and expense normally associated with a tribunal claim. It can also help avoid the lasting damage to relationships that can happen during a tribunal.
If a claim is submitted to the industrial tribunal the Labour Relations Agency receives notification and we then have a legal responsibility to offer to conciliate. Our conciliation officers contact the parties or their representatives and our role is to help find a solution that both sides find acceptable, instead of going to a tribunal hearing.
We don’t impose solutions, we don’t take sides or represent either party and we can’t force anyone to take part. It’s a confidential, free of charge service and it is independent of the tribunal service. We conciliate in most claims about individual employment rights in Northern Ireland and the majority are settled (or withdrawn). If the claim is settled through the Labour Relations Agency, the agreement will be legally binding.
A claim can still be pursued through the tribunal if conciliation has not been successful, and anything said during conciliation cannot be used as evidence against you during a tribunal. Parties can also come back to conciliation after tribunal proceedings have begun.
Collective Conciliation services
Collective Conciliation is facilitated or assisted negotiation where a Labour Relations Agency conciliator helps employers and employees (usually through a Trade Union) to try to reach acceptable settlements in relation to a collective dispute.
The LRA conciliator is there to bring a neutral, independent perspective, and to encourage parties to consider if there are options that will enable them to break the deadlock. They will sometimes challenge assumptions and positions, and they may occasionally offer suggestions, however, their role is not to impose solutions. Any agreement is voluntarily entered into by the parties.
Talks held or facilitated by the Labour Relations Agency are confidential and the Agency makes no public statements to media or others about the progress or otherwise of negotiations, unless the parties jointly request or allow it.
Some of the issues that can be referred for collective conciliation include:
- Annual pay reviews;
- Other pay and terms and conditions;
- Changes in working practices;
- Discipline and dismissal (if an employee representative or group of people are involved);
- Redundancy consultation and redundancy selection; and
- Trade Union recognition.
Sometimes where disputes cannot be resolved through collective conciliation the parties agree to refer their issues to arbitration. Voluntary arbitration provides a method of settling disputes between employers and trade unions by inviting one or more impartial arbitrators to make a decision (award) which the parties have agreed in advance that they will accept.
There is no charge for using the Labour Relations Agency’s services.