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10 January 2020

Early Conciliation coming to Northern Ireland

Early Conciliation coming to Northern Ireland

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 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.

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.

To make an Early Conciliation notification, log on from 27 January 2020 to and fill in a short Early Conciliation notification form. Those unable to do it online can phone the Agency on 03300 552 224 and a staff member will take the details. Legal or trade union representatives can also do this on the individual's behalf. Alternatively people can download the form, complete it by hand and post it to the Agency, or they can call into one of the Agency's offices and a staff member will assist them to complete the online 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.

There are a small number of exemptions where individuals can go straight to tribunal if they wish. A key one is in respect of disputes where there are multiple claims. This means that if someone with exactly the same dispute has an Early Conciliation certificate, others do not 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.

For more information about Early Conciliation contact the Labour Relations Agency on 03300 552 220 or visit their website (link below).


DfE NI EarlyConciliation StatutoryRule Jan2020 - Size: 56Kb Download
DfE NI EarlyConciliation ExplantoryMemorandum Jan2020 - Size: 46Kb Download
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For more information please contact:
Kyle Jardine
Kyle Jardine
0289 002 0135