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ACAS Conciliation – use of COT3 Forms

It is now compulsory for all Claimants who are considering making a claim at the Employment Tribunal against their previous employers to complete an Early Conciliation form. This is part of a new scheme which introduced in April 2014 to encourage resolution between parties before it reaches the stage of a claim.

The procedure is that employees complete an Early Conciliation notification form, then ACAS attempt to contact both parties to establish if both sides want to discuss this. However, as well as employees notifying ACAS, it seems that employers are also contacting ACAS in an attempt to trigger early conciliation discussions, after having terminated an employee’s contract. Employers are effectively using this procedure to resolve workplace disputes rather than issuing a Settlement Agreement and advising the employee to take legal advice.

If Early Conciliation is successful, then an agreement is drafted called a COT3. This agreement contains the terms of settlement of any employment related claim and means that the employee agrees to settle the claim and will not progress with any claim against their previous employer. It is a document which is legally binding on both parties.

The benefits to the employer of using this procedure are financial – they do not need to pay for a lawyer to draft a Settlement Agreement, and nor do they have to meet an additional fee for the employee to obtain independent legal advice on the terms of the agreement.

But an inevitable side-effect of this is that they are denying the employee the right to have paid-for legal advice regarding the implications of signing a COT3 agreement, which usually disposes of ALL employment, discrimination or personal injury claims, not just a claim about the sacking.

Because this point may not always be something the employee appreciates or is even aware of until a later stage, the Glasgow Law Practice would always recommend that advice is taken prior to signing a COT3 agreement.

Although ACAS can give guidance, it is important to note that they cannot provide legal advice to each party as to the implications of entering into this agreement, as they must remain independent.

Contact Us

The Glasgow Law Practice advises and represents employees during the Early Conciliation process and has experience in drafting COT3 agreement. Contact lb@theglasgowlawpractice.co.uk or ss@theglasgowlawpractice.co.uk for an informal discussion.