The process for resolving problems in the workplace in Northern Ireland is about to change.
From January 27, potential claimants will not be able to proceed straight to an industrial or fair employment tribunal and must at least consider the option of early conciliation.
It marks a significant change from the current situation, where claims can be lodged with the tribunal before the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) has a duty to make contact with the parties to offer conciliation.
The change is aimed at resolving workplace issues without the need for a tribunal. Conciliation is a voluntary process, requiring both parties to agree to take part.
Tribunal claims usually have to be presented within three or six months of the alleged incident or behaviour.
But the LRA says that when an individual makes an early conciliation notification, the clock will stop for a 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.
LRA chief executive Tom Evans said early conciliation "represents a valuable opportunity to bring cultural change in how workplace disputes are resolved in Northern Ireland".