Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


Why do we sign COT3s?

09 April 2013

When people reach agreements through an Acas conciliator, they are binding from the point that agreement is communicated to the conciliator.

Yet Acas still sends out a copy of the COT3 form to the claimant, who signs it, before passing it on to the respondent, who signs it too.

It struck me yesterday that this seems pointless.

Why doesn’t the Acas conciliator sign the COT3, confirming that everyone has agreed, then send copies to the parties?

I suppose that both parties have signed the agreement is occasionally useful by providing evidence that they did really agree. But, it’s rare for people to dispute the fact of an Acas agreement. If there is dispute, it will come down to the conciliator’s evidence anyway. That independent witness, with a contemporaneous note, is part of the reason dispute is rare.

Having Acas sending out the agreement would speed up the process slightly. It generally takes no more than a few days for Acas to send out the COT3. Removing the need to send it from claimant to respondent would cut about a week (more if there is any sort of delay or problem) off the process. This might not be much, looking at the overall life of a case, but it’s time worth saving.

It would also be useful in those cases where one party refuses to (or, more often, just doesn’t) sign the agreement. Although this makes no difference to the legal position, it does lead to a fairly boring and frustrating process of chasing them and, if necessary, getting Acas to provide confirmation of the agreement. Having that confirmation from the start in all cases would short-circuit that problem.

Neither of these advantages is particularly earth-shattering, but, equally, I can’t see any important advantage of the current system. Have I missed something?

blog comments powered by Disqus