What is Collective Conciliation?

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 30th November 2023

Are you and a group of your colleagues impacted by the same issue at work? If you and your work colleagues are in a shared dispute with your employer, you might want to consider collective conciliation.


Keep reading as we explore the concept of collective conciliation in the workplace to give you a better understanding of collaborative conflict resolution in employment law.

We’ll explore: 

  • How collective conciliation can help resolve your workplace dispute;

  • What kind of disputes can collective conciliation solve;

  • The process collective conciliation follows;

  • The purpose of collective conciliation;

  • How much collective conciliation costs.

What is collective conciliation?

Collective conciliation is when a mediator helps an employer and a group of employees find a solution to a collective dispute in the workplace. 

A collective dispute is basically like a group concern at work. It happens when a group of employees write down what’s bothering them and send it to their trade union in an effort to address a workplace issue. 

Collective conciliation is led by a neutral person, aka a conciliator. They’re impartial, meaning they don’t pick sides, and their job is to help both parties find a solution that everyone agrees with. 

Collective conciliation shouldn’t be confused with an early conciliation process. This is when a single employee takes their case to ACAS before filing a legal claim

How can collective conciliation help in the workplace? 

For some workplace problems, collective conciliation can help reach a resolution. 

When an employer and a group of employees hit a dead end in solving a dispute, collective conciliation can offer an alternative route to a solution. With the help of a neutral third party, both sides can reopen a route to calm, productive conversations with the aim of reaching a settlement agreement outside of court.

What kind of employment disputes can collective conciliation resolve?

According to ACAS, collective conciliation has solved 9 out of 10 collective disputes in Great Britain

Some examples of the types of disputes that can be solved include:

  • Annual pay reviews and other pay issues such as shift patterns, annualised hours, bonuses;

  • Contract terms and conditions;

  • Changes in working practices;

  • Discipline and dismissal if an employee representative or a group of people are involved;

  • Redundancy consultation and redundancy selection;

  • Trade union recognition – membership checks and ballots. 

What is the process of collective conciliation?

Collective conciliation will be held by a neutral person from an agency, they are known as a conciliator. This person is unbiased and impartial, they are not allowed to take sides, and they are appointed to help both sides reach an agreement which is mutually beneficial.

It is an unpaid service, so the conciliator has no conflict of interests. 

It’s usually a flexible process, but it could look similar to this:

  1. The conciliator will have a discussion with both sides together, or independently;

  2. They’ll ask both sides to consider potential solutions, fostering positive discussions;

  3. If the sides agree, the conciliator will draft a written agreement for each to sign;

  4. The conciliator will ensure everyone understands what they have agreed to going forwards.

The benefits of collective conciliation are:

  • It’s free

  • It’s voluntary

  • It’s confidential

  • Both sides must agree outcomes

Each side is expected to be cooperative and civil during the process. Typically, both sides will come into conciliation wanting and expecting a resolution to be reached. 

As mentioned, the conciliator brings fresh perspective to an historic dispute. They may be able to help both sides to rethink their position, reinterpreting their position and assumption of the facts. A conciliator may also suggest new arrangements that haven’t been thought of by an employer or employees.

If both sides still can't agree after conciliation, as an employee you can take your case to an employment tribunal.

What is the role of collective conciliation?

The job of collective conciliation is to be the peacemaker in a workplace feud. 

Its main role is to help employees and employers who are stuck in a dispute reach a mutual agreement. 

It is not the conciliator’s job to force an agreement on either side. Rather, their position is to help both parties find common ground which forms the basis of a mutual agreement. 

For collective conciliation to be effective, both sides need to take it seriously and be committed to reaching a lasting agreement that is sustainable for all. If a long-term deal isn’t on the cards, a conciliator can settle for a temporary agreement in order to allow both parties to keep working together with less tension. 

Collective conciliation vs arbitration

If a dispute can’t be resolved through collective conciliation sometimes the parties will agree to take their issue to arbitration.

While collective conciliation aims for a mutual agreement without imposing decisions on either party, in arbitration the arbitrator imposes a final decision, and both parties have to stick to it. 

How much does collective conciliation cost?

Collective conciliation is free, ACAS can offer a free service to help settle the claims of either party. The ACAS guide on conciliation is a useful tool for anyone considering a conciliation process. This is particularly useful for groups of employees in a dispute with their employer who don’t know what to do next.

Get help with workplace disputes from Lawhive

If you’re in a collective dispute with your employer and you feel you’ve run out of road, don’t despair, you can execute your legal rights to collective conciliation. This is an effective process that nearly always creates a solution without needing to go through the courts.

If you’re in dispute with your employer, or you need any legal help relating to employment law, get in touch with Lawhive today for a free quote and case assessment.

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