Following a change in employment law, the Labour Relations Agency will provide a new service to employees, employers, and their representatives.

Early Conciliation comes into effect from 27 January 2020.  As a result, anyone who wishes to lodge a claim with the Industrial or Fair Employment Tribunal must first notify the Agency and discuss the option of Early Conciliation.  Potential claimants will not be able to proceed to tribunal without at least considering this option.

This marks a significant change from the current situation, whereby claims can be lodged with the tribunal and the Agency then has a duty to make contact with the parties to offer conciliation.

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, when an individual makes an Early Conciliation notification the clock will stop for a period up to one calendar month during which conciliation can take place.  The Conciliation Officer will also have the power to extend for a further 14 days providing there is a reasonable prospect of an agreement and that both parties agree.

Last year the LRA dealt with 4,500 cases about individual employment rights and only 8% proceeded to tribunal.  For those that reach a conciliated agreement, there are numerous benefits compared with going through a tribunal, including the privacy of the process, lack of fees, speed and control over the content of the settlement.

To make an Early Conciliation notification, log on from 27 January 2020 to and fill in a short Early Conciliation notification form.

The prospective claimant (or their representative) will then be contacted by one of the Agency’s Conciliation Officers, usually within five working days.  S/he will explain how conciliation works and, with the individual’s 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 cannot agree a settlement, the Agency will issue an Early Conciliation certificate which individuals will need if they decide to proceed to tribunal.