Published byLawspeed Ltd

Employment Disputes: What should you do if you are contacted by ACAS

Recruitment businesses may face employment tribunal claims, not just from their own internal employees, but also temporary agency workers.

These could include claims related to the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR), holiday pay, non-payment of wages, discrimination and employment status. In many cases the first notification a business receives will be from ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). So what should you do if you receive contact from ACAS with a notification of a potential claim, or tribunal proceedings.

ACAS pre claim conciliation

Before someone can issue employment tribunal proceedings, normally they must first notify ACAS of their intention to make a claim. In most cases they must do this within three months of the incident that gives rise to the complaint. This is to allow for a reasonable time for the parties to try and resolve any dispute and potentially avoid tribunal proceedings. If the matter cannot be resolved, or the parties do not want to engage in the pre claim conciliation, ACAS will issue a certificate which allows the individual to issue tribunal proceedings if they choose to do so.

Contact from ACAS

A notification from ACAS is in effect a notification that a tribunal claim is likely. So whilst it is an option to ignore ACAS, refuse to engage and wait and see if a tribunal claim is issued, a better option is usually to review the merits of the claim. You should establish your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to determine your commercial stance and therefore determine whether you should try and settle.

Even if you do not wish to settle, the ACAS process may also allow for early clarification on the issues. An example of this is; if an umbrella worker raises a claim for unpaid holiday pay, an agency may use the ACAS process to try and address who the employer is, and therefore who the correct respondent is. This would also allow calculations to be worked through for a consultant who argues an underpayment of commission, or whether an agency worker’s holiday pay has been calculated correctly.


Whilst it will not be possible to resolve all disputes at this initial stage, and sometimes proceedings cannot be avoided, the earlier that the merits are addressed and, if applicable resolution attempted, the better. If a dispute proceeds to the employment tribunal, attitudes can often harden and costs can spiral, which in most cases, even if a claim is defended successfully, may not be recoverable.  Early settlement may avoid incurring unnecessary time, costs, or publicity.  

Seeking advice at an early stage of dispute can save you in the long term and Lawspeed’s specialist employment advisers, who have a unique understanding of the risks faced by the sector, can assist in every stage of an employment dispute. This includes ACAS conciliation, settlement agreements and tribunal proceedings. Our specialist advice can help you understand your potential risks, achieve early resolution, and ensure effective and appropriate responses to proceedings.

If you are a business facing an employment dispute or require assistance with any area of employment or recruitment law please contact us on 01273 236 236 or email us at