If you’ve submitted an Employment Tribunal claim (whether it’s for unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal, discrimination or any other ground of claim) then there are three options for the outcome of the claim: you can withdraw the claim before the Employment Tribunal hearing, settle the claim before the Employment Tribunal hearing or take the claim all the way to the Employment Tribunal hearing. This post is going to focus on the second option: settling the claim before an Employment Tribunal hearing. It will do so by addressing the following issues:
- How can a claim be settled?
- What is a COT3?
- Why might you sign a COT3?
- What does signing a COT3 mean?
- Can I make a claim against my employer after I sign the COT3?
How can a claim be settled?
An employment law claim in the Employment Tribunal can be settled by one of two means:
- A compromise agreement; or
- An ACAS-conciliated COT3 settlement
Although s.203 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 generally prohibits employees from contracting out their rights there is an exception for compromise agreements and COT3 settlements. We’re not going to cover compromise agreements in this post as we’ve covered this quite comprehensively in previous posts.
What is a COT3?
A COT3 form is a form used to record the terms of the settlement of the Employment Tribunal case by ACAS. Although ACAS conciliators are normally happy to help the parties pursue a settlement unless the ACAS conciliator has been actively involved in attempts to settle the claim they may refuse to help the parties enter into a COT3. The terms of a COT3 will normally include such terms as the payment of a sum of money with a specified period, whether the Respondent admits liability and the confidentiality of the agreement.
Why might you sign a COT3?
You will sign a COT3 if you believe the benefits of settling the claim before the Employment Tribunal outweigh the sum of the benefits and the costs of going to the Employment Tribunal hearing. You might have received evidence from the Respondent which affects the strength of your claim (such as witness or documentary evidence), you might be too stressed out by the claim or you might just feel that you want to end the claim without going to a hearing.
What does signing a COT3 mean?
If you sign a COT3 form then you are normally settling the claims that are currently outstanding against your employer in the Employment Tribunal. It can sometimes extend beyond this but ACAS are normally reluctant to extend the remit of the COT3 beyond the claims that are, as above, outstanding. So if you submitted a claim for unfair dismissal against your employer the COT3 will normally just cover the unfair dismissal claim. The outcome of the COT3 agreement is that you will receive a sum of money (or some other equivalent benefit) in return for withdrawing your claim against your employer.
Can I make a claim against my employer after I sign the COT3?
This depends. If you settle a claim for race discrimination against your employer then you’re withdrawing those proceedings and you can’t issue a claim for the same facts twice. However, if you subsequently realised (although highly unlikely) that you had a race discrimination claim based on substantially different facts then you may be able to submit an Employment Tribunal claim for that.